Access to Education for Students with Disabilities in Cross-Cultural Perspective
This symposium consists of three papers that are based on new research results from an international comparative project in the field of special needs and inclusive education and provides three different national perspectives. The project „Classifications of disabilities in the field of education; CLASDISA 2010-2015“ (http://classifications-of-disabilities.univie.ac.at/) pursues the research question: Which environmental factors affect the education of children with disabilities in Austria, Thailand, and Ethiopia?
The focus of this symposium is on access to education of the target group in the capitals of the three countries, i.e. physical access, academic/program access, social access, economic access (Peters 2004). Based on qualitative research results, similarities and differences between the three countries, which are characterized by varying social, economic, and cultural contexts, will be highlighted. The factors facilitating or restricting activity and participation of children with disabilities (CWD) in the educational field include attitudes of school administrators, teachers, parents, and of society at large, available information and infrastructure or services and economic resources. Furthermore, the implications for inclusive education based on the findings will be discussed. The symposium concords with the conference theme by presenting fundamental research on the relations between society, culture, disability and education but also by applying new understandings of socio-cultural barriers to and facilitators of inclusive education to optimize educational resources.
CLASDISA utilizes the WHO Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) and the adapted Child and Youth version (ICF-CY). This classification regards disability as a product of impairments of physical and/or mental structures and functions, activity limitations and participation restrictions in combination with environmental and personal factors. Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model serves as a basis for describing and measuring the interplay between environment and human development at different stages (Bronfenbrenner 1980). The phenomenological definition of culture by Nieke (2008) is used for the examination of the ‘lifeworlds’ of individuals as well as of the culture of groups.
Methods and Sources of Data
The empirical data for this study is being collected through field research. The study follows a uniform design and uses a mixed-methods approach including a grounded-theory-based analysis. The project takes an ecological perspective on children and the micro-systems in which they act such as their families and school classes. Societal and cultural aspects of disability are reconstructed through interviews with educators, parents, as well as by using adapted techniques for capturing the perspectives of CWD. Subjective theories as representations of the participants’ life-worlds are complemented by quantitative surveys and document analysis. The sample consists of boys and girls aged 7 to 13 years, representing various impairment groups (visual, hearing, mental and motor impairments). The initial study phase consisted of up to one hundred exploratory interviews in each country. Currently, follow-up interviews are conducted with many of the participants.