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Greener, more sustainable lifestyles are a topic of conversation across our communities, from schools to community groups, to businesses and policymakers. But what about people with disabilities and long-term health conditions? The different needs and lifestyle adaptations of those living with disabilities, and chronic health challenges, are often not considered when it comes to changing government policies to reduce carbon emissions and improve the planet.

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University worked on a new project, Eco-Ableism, in collaboration with West Lothian Libraries and The Ability Centre in Carmondean, to address just this. The ‘Eco-Ableism' project aims to identify the challenges and barriers that people with disabilities in West Lothian face in trying to adopt greener, more sustainable, lifestyles. The research project engaged local groups and individuals to identify the potential discrimination they face as efforts are made to enact new eco-friendly policies at local and national levels.

Dr Mandy Littlewood, Honorary Research Fellow from Heriot-Watt University’s Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE), led the project and aimed to work within communities, with people's voices and personal experiences at its heart. Mandy has vast experience in working with a variety of communities, researching hardship and destitution, homelessness, drivers of food bank use, girls’ education and violence against women, amongst other social areas. She has collaborated with Government, policy makers and charities, amongst other partnerships, to champion communities and underrepresented voices.

The project team worked closely with groups to identify the difficulties disabled people face in their daily life choices, exploring how this impacts upon their ability to engage with policy and process changes, as councils and other government organisations seek to align with sustainability strategies. The team were examining how to empower individuals to have a voice when developing environmental aspirations, enabling sustainable lifestyle choices to be as equitable as possible. The project identified practical support mechanisms that can be rolled out across the community in West Lothian, particularly in the aftermath of Covid-19.

The project team will be sharing learning to shape future practice across the partners and beyond. You can read the full report here. 

You can find out more about projects funded through the Scottish Government Public Library Improvement Fund on the ScotGov website. 

You can find out more about The Livingston North Partnership housing both The Ability Centre and Carmondean Library.

Key information

Camilla Irvine-Fortescue

Job title
Responsible Impact Specialist