Vol. 11 no. 2 / December 2017 / Inclusive Education: Listening to Disabled Students' Voices

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Working toward inclusion without ifs and without buts

Elena Tanti Burlo'

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There is no abstract for this article.

Voices in the Classroom – Exploring how the Voice of the Disabled Child and the Educational Professionals are Manifested in the Classroom

Elvira Psaila

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Children are often presented as vulnerable and in need of guidance (Priestley, 2007), thus, as adults and professionals we tend to assume that we know what is best for them, particularly if the child has some form of impairment. This may therefore cause children’s voices to be silenced, unacknowledged and unheard. Drawing on the findings of a project I embarked on through the use of the Mosaic Approach, this paper presents the voices of a seven year-old boy, Alexander, having Spina Bifida, and that of his teacher and LSA. A brief overview of the importance of voice is given, and the paper then proceeds to explain why the Mosaic Approach is an appropriate tool in making children’s voices heard in research and everyday life. By presenting the voices of Alexander and the education professionals simultaneously, the messages they are attempting to convey, namely themes focusing on identity, normalization of the body, academic excellence and accessibility, are then discussed. The voices brought forward highlight the different discourses presented by the child and the professionals. Whereas the child projects a message of normalcy and equality with peers, the education professionals still place emphasis on disabling discourse. Possible ways in which the disabled child’s voice is promoted and acknowledged at a level at par to that of the education professionals conclude the discussion brought forward in the paper.

From adversity to success: Four life experiences around resilience

Marisol Moreno.Angarita, Andrea Cárdenas-Jiménez

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Despite high rates of educational exclusion of adolescents and young adults with disabilities reported by Colombia’s Ministry
of Health and Social Protection, 3.7 % of disabled people have reached some level of education. The process of adaptation to the school environment led them to the successful completion of this phase of their training. They confronted adverse conditions and registered some important achievements, notwithstanding adversity. This invites us to think of ‘resilience’ in this population group as a process that ‘arises from’ adversity and not ‘in spite of’ it. Resilience is a transactional process between individuals and their context, a process with strong roots in the individual’s history. This qualitative study emerged in order to understand what happens with disabled young people in Bogotá, Colombia. It was developed using oral life history as a method. Prominence is given to the subjectivity of the collaborator, the social and cultural context and its vision of process, rather than the result. This study seeks to identify and describe the process of adaptation and resilience in schools, as lived by a group of four people with disabilities during their adolescence and young adulthood. The results are presented as suggestive material to design strategies to support students at secondary level. The participants’ own voices, perceptions and expressions were the focus of the study

‘Streamed’ Voices – Facebook posts and related thoughts on mainstreaming and inclusion

Maria Flamich, Rita Hoffmann

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Several studies conducted in the recent past reveal that a large number of Hungarian mainstream teachers say they are unable and unprepared to deal with disabled students in the classroom. This paper aims to examine what the reasons for the above situation might be. In order to gain deeper insight into teachers’ uncertainty, we listen to students’ voices. As insider researchers, having visual impairments ourselves, we also take a look into the present outcomes of an ongoing research where we examine visually impaired secondary school and university students’ narratives, Facebook posts and interviews, so that we can understand how students experience mainstreaming and inclusion. As opposed to the Facebook group, where students actively discuss their problems, in the research secondary school students were silent. Only university students’ voices could be heard. This passive attitude provokes numerous questions: What makes them silent? Is it the loneliness of mainstreaming? Are they too often misunderstood? Are they treated according to stereotypes? Students’ voices imply that teacher education needs reconsideration, and that, except for the cultural model of disability, each model fails to paint a holistic picture of disabled people’s lives. Listening to students’ voices is not only an important part of the cultural context but also a basic need without which both mainstream and inclusive education remains pure theory.

The outcomes of mainstream post-secondary education for young people with intellectual disability: investing in human capital or whiling away the time?

Lorraine Pleven, Anne-Marie Callus

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In Malta, as in other countries, the investment in postsecondary and tertiary education is based on human capital theory, whereby education is seen as important on an individual as well as an economic level. This paper analyses the outcomes of mainstream postsecondary education for people with intellectual disability within the framework of this theory. A qualitative study was carried out with eight former students of the Pathway Programme at MCAST and the Key Skills course at ITS, as well as an MCAST representative. The main findings show that education is viewed by the participants as a necessary step to finding employment. This is very much in line with human capital theory which considers education to be an investment in human capital that has economic returns in terms of increasing students’ employability. However, the various issues raised by the research participants regarding difficulties with their current job or their job prospects may make it seem as if the post-secondary courses they attended have led to failure. This paper argues that the continued need for support experienced by people with intellectual disability may be seen as undermining their ability to join the labour market, even if the persons with intellectual disability interviewed do not see any contradiction between the two. For young people with intellectual disability to have equal opportunities in the workplace, it is essential for their voice to be heard, and for their perspectives to be understood. It is also essential for their support needs to be attended to, while appreciating that having support needs is not contradictory to being an employee.

Inclusive Education and Disabled Students’ Genuine Right to British Higher Education

Armineh Soorenian

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Access to general education is perceived to be a positional good and the passport to better paid employment opportunities (EHRC, 2010). Yet, more than ten years on from the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), having an equal opportunity to participate in an inclusive education environment remains an unreachable dream for many disabled people. Mainstream education can therefore prove to be a disabling context as well as being enabling for different groups of learners with certain minority characteristics (Riddell, Tinklin, & Wilson, 2005). Drawing on the voices and experiences of a group of disabled international students within a British-specific context, in this article I assess the inclusiveness of university practices, examining the level to which students feel included in university life. The intersectionality of disabled international students’ identities can have a negative impact on their opportunities to access and participate on an equal footing in the university system. The discussion of discriminatory barriers to their involvement in university facilities as a right to full membership to the student body, and its effects on the quality of the education received, will be significant to this article. In conclusion, I will explain that as creative solutions inclusive education practices only require flexible thinking and can transform societal attitudes as well as equalising all students’ experiences.

The values of inclusive education: A political debate

Liliana Mariċ

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The ontology of lived experiences of young people with physical and sensorial disabilities was used to understand the experience of inclusive education (IE) within further education (FE) and higher education (HE) institutions in Malta. The inquiry problematised the environmental, social and educational disabling and enabling factors. Underlying values of inclusion and exclusion that promoted social cohesion or social conflict emerged from the discourse. This research paper focuses on the accounts of four disabled young people. Seven semi-structured interviews were carried out per participant over two years while they were attending a course at FE and HE level. Narrative analysis was utilised to understand the underlying themes of the stories. The analysis indicates that successful stories of inclusion are influenced by the extent to which disabled and non-disabled persons practise values that promote social cohesion within a community. Virtues of social cohesion affect the extent to which environmental and educational disabling barriers are challenged and changed. The evidence from this study contributes to the debate that active participation of disabled young people, valuing the voice of others, embracing values of inclusion, and the appreciation of individual’s variations inculcate growth in the quality of IE. Social transformation affects the environmental and educational milieu within FE and HE institutions.