Towards a prototypical conceptual model for the interrelations among disability, belonging and leisure

Friday, November 1, 2013
First author:
Johan Bouwer
Belonging 'Inside-Out


NHTV Breda International University of Applied Science, Breda, the Netherlands
All authors:

Johan Bouwer

Disability, belonging, leisure

H3>Aim Scholars in the field of leisure studies have claimed that their discipline is in a state of crisis due to a failure to accommodate the theoretical and methodological necessities that leisure in the postmodern era demands. In postmodern times leisure should be studied as the key domain in which people find and create meaning by expressing and exploring their freedom But does this apply to people with disabilities as well? It is believed that the field of leisure studies has not been able to develop a coherent body of knowledge on disability and leisure and requires a more inclusive discourse that is informed by new definitions and wider engagement with disability research and disabled people. Could the notion of ‘belonging’ contribute to this endeavor? Taking up the challenge to engage in developing new inclusive leisure definitions in interaction with disabled people, this paper explores the construction of a prototypical conceptual model that reflects the interrelationships between disability , ‘leisure’ and ‘belonging’.


Qualitative design (N=1), resembling Grounded Theory. A semi-structured interview reflecting the three domains of ‘belonging’, ‘leisure’ and ‘disability’ with Marian, a 56 year old woman with SMA (spinal muscular atrophy), has been digitally recorded. Since the main ‘categories’ are known, analysis of the transcription started with axial coding, followed by selective coding. The results of this exercise have been discussed in depth with the respondent. New insights have been generated, which in turn, have led to the construction of a first version of the prototypical model. This has also been discussed with the respondent. Theoretical comparison and further consultations with the respondent have led to saturation and resulted in the model that will be presented.


The conceptual model displays three levels of aggregation: (i) a personal-intimate domain (spiritual space) (ii) a social-intimate domain (socializing space) and (iii) a social-contractual domain (public-social space). Level 1 forms the fundamental basis for levels 2 and 3. Three kinds of leisure and three kinds of belonging have been identified, which correspond with these domains. ‘Being-leisure’ corresponds with ‘personal-intimate’ belonging (level 1), ‘grooming- leisure’ corresponds with ‘social-intimate’ belonging (level 2) and ‘participatory’ leisure corresponds with ‘social-contractual’ belonging. The first dichotomy (being-leisure –personal-intimate belonging) is characterized by necessary availability for self resulting in happiness, personal growth and re-creation; the second dichotomy (grooming leisure – social-intimate belonging) by voluntary availability for significant others resulting in happiness, personal growth, re-creation and having fun, and the third dichotomy (participatory leisure – social-contractual belonging) by voluntary availability for social others resulting in personal growth, quality of life, re-creation and social involvement.


Disability forms the ‘playground’ for leisure (i.e. it demarcates/limits leisure possibilities), while leisure forms the fundamental precondition for belonging. Leisure ‘space’ has been characterized as a spiritual domain, rather than a physical place, and is undergirded by relationality and reciprocity. Belonging seems to be a contributing factor in complementing existing leisure theory – especially with regard to disabled people.