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Moving On

Moving On


  1. Documents the unique journies of two people, Valerie Browne and Matthew Whitney in their own words, at key milestones in their transitional journeys out of residential care into the community, over two years 2014-2016;
  2. These include timelines, photo collages, video clips and two short films;
  3. The site also features a digital archive

In 2012 the Health Service in Ireland produced a Report ‘Time to Move on from Congregated Settings’ and many people, are moving out of institutional care into their own homes in the community. Having supported people with different abilities to move to the community, the project creator, Gertrude Cotter, was fascinated by the complexity of the move, the bravery of the individuals involved and by the deeper philosophical questions which arose.

The project documents the history of residential care in Ireland and explores the significance of the current changes. A digital archive features historical visual, audio and textual artefacts. It also focuses on the current journeys of two people, both living in residential care for sixteen years. Using digital story-telling they tell their unique stories out of “service-land”. It is a historical moment and one which has not been widely discussed in public discourse. There are many individual and unique stories and we believe these are stories which must be heard.

The two individuals, and their families, also use their own art work and writings to demonstrate what they value about this journey.

The site is also a digital archive documenting not just personal stories but also the history of disability care services, debates about those services and progressive moves to improve the lives of people with disabilities.  The project is still in its infancy but hopefully it will grow and develop over the coming years. I would like this to belong to the community and I invite others to contact me should they wish to highlight their own stories or dialogue on related on Irish policies and services.


  • Project 4 – ‘Mixed Abilities Group’ of UCC students in collaborative DE learning experience with service users from three Disability Support services in Cork, inclusive of people with Intellectual, Neurological and Physical Disabilities.

In Year 3 I wanted to take DE to another group whom I felt were often excluded in DE learning.  At this point too I was feeling less comfortable with a sense of ‘them and us’ in my research approach, so I wanted all participants, students and ‘community partners’ to participate in six DE workshops together.  This project was also Finuala’s work-placement.  Finuala had expressed a particular interest in institutional care such as residential centres, direct provision and prisons. In addition, the coordinator of a course for people with intellectual disabilities at UCC asked if I could take one of their students on a work placement. This student joined our planning sessions and helped with the organisation and facilitation of the six DE workshops.  We ran six two-hour workshops on Development Education themes attended by twelve students, six from UCC and six from the three ‘disability’ partner groups.  The ‘key participants’ in my research work from this project were first year student Finuala and a wheelchair user, Vera (not her real name), who also had learning difficulties and more importantly had recently moved out of residential care and into her own home in the community.  Finuala’s work-placement included participating in the six workshops and working closely with Vera to help her to reach her full potential in the course.  Finuala and Vera also worked with me and other students, on a digital archive about institutional care in Ireland, an archive that features Vera’s own story of her move out of institutional care.  (LINK here Archive:  Vera’s story is on the attached USB and entitled “No Looking Back”. OM/SOB Question re public story yet a different name in thesis

In terms of recruiting Vera and other participants, I had previously worked with people with intellectual, neurological and physical disabilities as a ‘Transition Coordinator’.  My job had been to assist two individuals to move out of institutional care into their own homes in the community.  I had found the work deeply rewarding and wanted to develop DE learning opportunities that would bring people with ‘mixed abilities’ together.  After a long process relating to ethical consent, these two individuals joined what would become the ‘mixed abilities’ DE group:  When I attended a course myself on the theme of Sustainable Development I was fortunate to meet a woman who worked in another NGO working with people with intellectual disabilities.  She too had been hoping to run a Global Citizenship course with some of the residents and we began to plan the project together.  All participants signed a consent form and where appropriate, were assisted to do so by staff from their ‘organisations’.

One of these organisations also had a residential centre in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) India.  We had an online discussion with the group there about life in India and in Ireland.  In addition, one of the participants had a sister who worked as a development worker in community radio in Kenya, with Irish Aid. She came to speak to the group about her work.  The project which all students worked on together was the production of a radio show as part of the Global Hub.  This radio show is on the attached USB and includes an interview with the Aid Agency Concern as well as what the group had learned during their six week course.  At the end the students were also presented with a certificate of participation.

I gathered data in the following ways: (1) observation – I recorded all workshops and wrote field notes immediately afterwards. I particularly focused on the experience of both Finuala and Vera.  At this stage I knew both ‘key participants’ well.  I had worked with Vera in the past and Finuala had been attending the cross-disciplinary group workshops.  (2) Radio narrative – the students researched and presented a radio show about what they had learned.  This was transcribed and content/process was analysed as part of the data collection procedure, particularly content relevant to Vera and Finuala. (3) Narrative from the digital archive and digital stories.  I used data from student blogs and from Vera’s story to analyse learning and experiences of this process.  As always, my question was to what extent such engagement with community-linked learning and multimedia, impacted on student engagement with DE issues and what was the impact of the work for community partners.