My principal research interest is the participation of people with communicative disabilities in deliberative democracy. I am approaching this topic not only as an academic, but also with a professional background in the non-profit sector working with the marginalised, especially people with mental and physical disabilities.
Deliberative democracy demands a great deal of citizens, both in terms of participation and communicative capacities. Those demands are high for most ordinary citizens, but they are significantly higher for those with learning or communication disabilities. Yet in a liberal order, the preferences and goals of the marginalised and disabled should count just the same as the preferences and goals of ordinary citizens. This raises a fundamental question: does deliberative democracy unfairly exclude those least able to speak for themselves, yet most in need of being heard?
While deliberative institutions and procedures are necessary for authentic and inclusive deliberation, they are not in and of themselves sufficient to include and further empower those with learning or communication disabilities in deliberation, because they assume the participation of “average” subjects. Informed by a critical disability studies approach, in my research I explore a systemic deliberative model in which those with less than average communicative abilities can find a voice and a seat at the table.