Purpose: This paper tracks the operations of a radical social enterprise, ‘New Horizon’ which attempted to provide a different approach to improve the independent living and employment opportunities for disabled people. The longitudinal study covers a period from the new labour project in the late 1990’s to current austerity measures. Design methodology approach: The project applied an emancipatory disability research agenda which places both the social and material relations of knowledge in the hands of the disabled participants. Findings: Under the neo-liberal marketization of public services, the radical nature of the organisation needed to be tempered as different stakeholder groupings required different and not always complementary approaches to be undertaken to maintain legitimacy. Neoinstitutional pressures tended to drive the organisation towards conformity with similar more mainstream rivals meaning the radical approach which assisted the formation of the organisation became less observable. Originality value: This longitudinal study of a radical disability organisation which is undertaken through an emancipatory disability research agenda provides a unique insight into a marginalised and largely disenfranchised group in society. The paper provides a voice for the disabled stakeholders of New Horizon and hence differs from the majority of social research in that interpretations and analysis arise from the knowing subjects of research as opposed to the more traditional nondisabled academic research community.