Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health

Reporting on Beyond the Stigma: An Exhibition of Lived Experience of Disability Among NHS Staff


Reporting on Beyond the Stigma: An Exhibition of Lived Experience of Disability Among NHS Staff

The SDHRC has been working in partnership with the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, to research and evaluate the longer-term impacts of Beyond the Stigma (BTS); “an exhibition of stories about seen and hidden disability” that launched in July 2021. Eight staff members took part in this initiative, using film and photography to share their lived experiences of disability, impairment, and long-term health conditions in their NHS workplace. Their stories can still be viewed here at: In contrast to most cultural representations of disabled people in the past, the intention of BTS was to “explore the impact of disability and promote a culture of openness, respect and compassion”. This evaluation aimed to examine how arts-based approaches to sharing lived experiences of disability may contribute to disability understandings and the wellbeing of disabled people in NHS workplaces and beyond.

Almost two years after the exhibition’s launch, and prior to its closure in December 2023, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) interviews were conducted with six BTS participants who agreed to take part in an evaluation. They were encouraged to talk freely, and about their experiences of the BTS initiative. Three superordinate themes emerged from the IPA data, exposing participants’ personal Process of Hesitancy and ComfortPerceptions of Impact and Contribution, and Journeying with Disability Understandings, as prompted through their involvement in BTS. Findings revealed how BTS created a unique and supportive space to disclose impairment and articulate stories of disability in a hospital workplace. Clear, longer-term wellbeing benefits for some participants have been identified as increased self-confidence, openness, self-acceptance, and empowerment. They expressed new openness to share experiences, engage in disability matters, lead, and build connections within and outside their workplace. Shifts in participants’ personal disability views pointed to improved wellbeing through new awareness of diverse and shared experiences of disability and new ease with disability definitions and language. Factors of participants’ lived experiences of BTS have wider implications in regard to gathering workforce diversity data and ensuring safe spaces for healthcare workers to disclose personal impairment or long-term health conditions. BTS offers a model of health promotion through valuing and listening to the voices of disabled people that can be repeated, improved, and extended to support individuals in healthcare and feed into recruitment and employment strategies.

This evaluation was led by Nina Worthington and supported by Charlotte Grainger. A detailed report of the research findings has been created for the ROH and presented to staff at the Trust at its ABLE Network meeting. The report will be available on CCCU’s Repository. Findings from the evaluation will also be shared at The Storytelling for Health and Wellbeing Conference, University of South Wales (June 2024), and The International Association for Music and Medicine (IAMM) and the International Society for Arts and Medicine (ISfAM) Joint 2024 Congress, Berlin (Sept 2024).

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