How can the capability approach contribute to understanding provision for people with learning difficulties?

Lani Florian, Cristina Devecchi, Lesley Dee

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


The capability approach suggests that well-being is fundamentally about the freedom that people have to be and do the things they have reason to value. This paper asks what freedom those adults who experience difficulties in learning have to be and do the things they have reason to value? It draws upon our recently completed literature review on theories of learning for adults with difficulties in learning (Dee, Devecchi and Florian, 2006) where the concepts of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ were integrated with a new elaboration of ‘having’. These three concepts are conceived as an integrated set of purposes for learning and it is argued that educational provision should be person-centred taking into consideration all three purposes. In this paper we show how a notion of having can result from an understanding of well-being that is not just about what people are and what they want to be able to do. It is also about the intrinsic and extrinsic resources that are available to them to be and become. This paper takes up Sen’s insight that though individuals may differ in what well-being means to them, it is not how they differ (their functionings) that matters so much but the difference between their capability to choose and achieve different functionings(outcomes) that explains inequality. In this paper we consider the usefulness of focusing on the freedom people have to be and do the things they have reason to value in terms of our conceptualisation of being having and doing as foundational to provision that is more equitable than that which is currently available for adults with learning difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008



  • capability approach
  • disability

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