Staff and disabled students’ experiences of disability support, inclusion and exclusion at Stellenbosch University

Lyner-Cleophas, Marcia Mirl (2016-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Inclusive education is a key means to redress inequalities and exclusions in society. Disability inclusion in higher education in South Africa has only recently been given increased attention and content in the form of the White Paper on Post-School Education and Training (2013). In 2015, a disability strategy framework for higher education was commissioned by the minister of Higher Education and Training, as an outflow of the 2013 White Paper. Students with disabilities are increasingly furthering their studies in the post-school sector. This study examines how far Stellenbosch University (SU) has come in its quest to be inclusive and accessible to students with disabilities. Aims The primary aim of this study was to understand affected students’ experiences of disability inclusion and exclusion at SU and the support that they were receiving. A secondary aim was to understand why some students did not continue to accept available support, despite having indicated a disability on application to SU. The final aim was to understand how staff experienced the inclusion and exclusion of students with disabilities at SU. Methods A mixed methods QUAL-quan research study was done using an interpretivist approach in a social constructivist paradigm. Qualitative data were collected by means of interviews with 26 staff members who represented faculty, administration and support services across SU. A total cohort of 549 students received an e-survey, to which 111 responded, as follows: a non-user group of support consisting of 254 students of whom 49 responded to the e-survey; the second group of students were using support and made up 295 students of whom 62 responded to the e-survey. Seven of the user group were interviewed as a group. An individual interview was conducted with one student who could not attend this group, and one student who was not using services was also interviewed. Findings The findings of this study highlighted both disability inclusive and exclusive practices from the perspective of students using support at SU. The University generally provides support by way of policy and practice, and it was found that such support tended to level the playing field for students. On the other hand, practices of exclusion in evidence included the tedious application process for support; inconsistent lecturer support; challenges with the physical environment; and the fact that less visible disabilities tended to result in less support. The non-users of support elucidated both disability inclusive and exclusive practices. For some students, the ability to adapt to conditions given the nature of their disability made it unnecessary to seek support; being able to stay in a university residence permitted better mobility; and self-advocacy for a disability fostered better inclusion. Practices of exclusion that were noted included not knowing where to go for support; physical barriers to mobility; staff constructions of disability and support; and the perception of the exorbitant cost of support that prohibited support-seeking behaviour. Disability inclusion and exclusion practices were also noted by staff. Disability inclusive practices were the general awareness around disability, the inclusion of diversity on campuses, nationally and internationally; having personal involvement with disability was a driver of support; cross-campus collaboration augured well for disability inclusion; and the exposure to more students with diverse needs provided learning opportunities to staff. Exclusionary disability-related aspects included the fact that some staff would at times forget to provide the requested support; the existence of negative stereotypes about students with disabilities; the continuing issue of physical access; inadequate campus-wide collaboration; the high cost of inclusion; and insufficient training for staff regarding disability inclusion. Recommendations Recommendations made included the need for more in-depth training for staff regarding disability inclusion and the conflicted notions around this and the need for better SU management understanding and encouragement of a campus-wide disability inclusive ethos at all levels of the institution, including policy imperatives. notion of creating a caring institution and what this means for each person on campus could go a long way to creating a disability inclusive campus climate. This would be evidenced in each department on campus, reflecting on their structures and processes, and enhancing planning for disability inclusion as part of their effort to transform the campus in a way that fosters access and universal design.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Inklusiewe onderwys is ’n belangrike manier om ongelykhede en uitsluiting in die samelewing reg te stel. Gestremdheidsinklusiwiteit in die hoër onderwys in Suid-Afrika het maar onlangs eers meer aandag en inhoud ontvang in die vorm van die Witskrif oor Naskoolse Onderwys en Opleiding (2013). As ’n uitvloeisel van die Witskrif van 2013, het die Minister van Hoër Onderwys en Opleiding in 2015 ’n strategiese raamwerk oor gestremdhede in die hoër onderwys laat opstel. Al hoe meer studente met gestremdhede studeer verder ná skool. Hierdie studie ondersoek dus hoe ver die Universiteit Stellenbosch (US) gevorder het in sy strewe om inklusief en toeganklik te wees vir studente met gestremdhede. Doelwitte Die hoofdoelwit van hierdie studie is om geaffekteerde studente se ervarings van gestremdheidsinsluiting en -uitsluiting aan die US sowel as van die beskikbare steun te verstaan. ’n Sekondêre doelwit is om te begryp waarom sommige studente kies om nié die beskikbare steun te gebruik nie, al het hulle ten tyde van hulle aansoek by die US ’n gestremdheid aangedui. Die laaste doelwit is om te verstaan hoe personeellede die insluiting en uitsluiting van studente met gestremdhede aan die US ervaar. Metodes ’n KWAL-kwan-navorsingstudie met gemengde metodes is met behulp van ’n vertolkende benadering in ’n sosiaal-konstruktivistiese paradigma uitgevoer. Kwalitatiewe data is ingesamel deur middel van onderhoude met 26 personeellede, wat alle fakulteite sowel as administratiewe en steundiensteafdelings van die US verteenwoordig het. ’n Algehele kohort van 549 studente het ’n e-opname ontvang, van wie 111 gereageer het. Die studentesamestelling was soos volg: ’n groep van 254 studente wat nié van US-steun gebruik maak nie, van wie 49 die e-opname voltooi het (‘die nie-gebruikergroep’), en ’n groep van 295 studente wat wél van US-steun gebruik maak, van wie 62 die e-opname voltooi het (‘die gebruikergroep’). Daarbenewens is ’n gesamentlike groeponderhoud met sewe lede van die gebruikergroep gevoer. ’n Individuele onderhoud is gevoer met een student wat nie laasgenoemde groep kon bywoon nie, sowel as met een student in die niegebruikergroep. Bevindinge Die bevindinge van hierdie studie dui op sowel insluiting- as uitsluitingspraktyke met betrekking tot gestremdheid uit die oogpunt van studente wat wél van US-steun gebruik maak. Die Universiteit bied oor die algemeen ondersteuning deur middel van beleid en praktyk, en daar is enersyds bevind dat hierdie steun meestal ’n gelyke speelveld vir studente skep. Andersyds word uitsluitingspraktyke opgemerk, waaronder die omslagtige aansoekproses om steun; inkonsekwente steun deur dosente; uitdagings met die fisiese omgewing, en dat minder sigbare gestremdhede geneig is om minder steun te ontvang. Die nie-gebruikergroep het eweneens na insluiting- én uitsluitingspraktyke met betrekking tot gestremdheid verwys. Vir sommige studente het hulle vermoë om by omstandighede aan te pas weens die aard van hulle gestremdheid, dit onnodig gemaak om steun te bekom; het koshuisinwoning beter mobiliteit meegebring, en het selfvoorspraak vir ’n gestremdheid beter insluiting bewerkstellig. Uitsluitingspraktyke wat opgemerk is, sluit in ’n gebrek aan kennis oor waar steun bekom kan word; fisiese mobiliteitshindernisse; personeelkonstruksies van gestremdheid en steun, en opvattings oor die buitensporige koste van steun, wat studente daarvan weerhou om steun te soek. Ook personeel het van insluiting- én uitsluitingspraktyke met betrekking tot gestremdheid melding gemaak. Insluitingspraktyke behels onder meer ’n algemene bewustheid van gestremdheid; die insluiting van diversiteit op kampusse, sowel nasionaal as internasionaal; persoonlike betrokkenheid by gestremdheid as ’n dryfveer vir steun; samewerking oor die kampus heen, wat gestremdheidsinklusiwiteit bevorder, en blootstelling aan al hoe meer studente met diverse behoeftes, wat as leergeleenthede vir personeel dien. Gestremdheidsverwante uitsluitingsaspekte sluit in dat sommige personeel soms vergeet om die vereiste steun te bied; negatiewe stereotipes oor studente met gestremdhede; die voortgesette kwessie van fisiese toegang; onvoldoende kampuswye samewerking; die hoë koste van insluiting, en onvoldoende personeelopleiding met betrekking tot gestremdheidsinklusiwiteit. Aanbevelings Studieaanbevelings sluit in die behoefte aan deegliker personeelopleiding met betrekking tot gestremdheidsinklusiwiteit sowel as die teenstrydige opvattings daaroor, en die behoefte aan beter begrip en aanmoediging deur die US-bestuur van ’n kampuswye gestremdheidsinklusiewe etos op alle vlakke van die instelling, wat noodsaaklike beleidskwessies insluit. Die daarstelling van ’n instelling wat omgee, en ’n begrip van wat dít vir elke persoon op kampus beteken, kan baie bydra tot die skep van ’n gestremdheidsinklusiewe kampusklimaat. Elke departement en afdeling op kampus behoort hieraan deel te neem en na te dink oor hulle strukture en prosesse, om sodoende hulle beplanning vir gestremdheidsinklusiwiteit te versterk as deel van hulle pogings om die kampus te transformeer wat toegang en universele ontwerp betref.

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