04 SES 13 C, Attitudes and Perceptions Towards Disability: Recent evidences from research
Since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), the question of how full inclusion of people with a disability can successfully be implemented in diverse educational settings as well as in society in general has become a major topic in educational sciences (e.g. Baglieri & Shapiro, 2012; Powell & Powell, 2016; Schnell, 2015). By conducting a longitudinal study using a questionnaire on attitudes towards inclusion that contents established standardized scales as well as self-developed scales and open questions, we aimed at (a) developing a general, optimized instrument for measuring attitudes towards disability and inclusion and (b) measuring attitudes and attitude changes in young volunteers working with people with a disability.
Empirical results from various studies reveal the importance of attitudes towards inclusion as a crucial factor (for an overview see e.g. Findler, Vilchinsky, & Werner, 2007). However, attitudes towards inclusion are conceptualized in very different ways in the existing research literature and, what determines a positive attitude towards disability and inclusion does not seem to have a (simple) clear-cut answer: For example, in some studies the amount of contact with people with a disability is linked to more positive attitudes while in others it is linked to more negative attitudes (for a summary see Kreuz, 2002), and in general little is known about the process and the nature of attitude changes in settings of a longtime daily contact with people with disabilities. Therefore, it seems vital to investigate (i) in how far and (ii) in which way young people who work for a year as volunteers with people with disabilities undergo an attitude change.
In the pursuit of measuring a broader variety of aspects of attitudes towards disability and inclusion and thus being able to analyze their dimensional structure, we found existing questionnaires most often limited to specific subjects such as inclusion in school (Gebhardt et al., 2011; Forlin, Earle, Loreman, & Sharma, 2001; Kunz, Luder, & Moretti, 2010; Paulus 2013; Schwab & Seifert, 2015; Stoiber, Gettinger, & Goetz, 1998), attitudes towards a specific type of disability (Antonak & Harth, 1994; Kreuz, 2002; Seifert & Stangl, 1981) or attitudes in terms of a specific aspect about disability (Gething & Wheeler, 1992). Based on such existing questionnaires (also Antonak, 1981; Findler, Vilchinsky, & Werner, 2007; Yuker, Block, & Young, 1966), we therefore constructed a new instrument to investigate the following questions: (1) From a conceptual and methodological point of view, we aim at developing an appropriate instrument for measuring diverse dimensions of attitudes towards disability and inclusion which is applicable in different contexts. (2) Subsequently, we investigate (i) in how far and (ii) in which way young people who work for a year as volunteers with people with disabilities undergo attitude changes.
The results presented in our paper are based on the data of the German study EFBI 2017-2018 (Einstellungen von FSJler_innen zu Behinderung und Inklusion – Young volunteers’ attitudes towards disability and inclusion). It is the first study that systematically measures attitudes and changes in attitudes towards inclusion during the participation in the state supported young volunteers program FSJ (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr – Voluntary social year). The program consists in working full time in social institutions for a year and attending accompanying courses for the total of 25 days. Our sample consists of n = 440 young volunteers of whom 73% work with people with a disability. Of all participants, 65% are female, the average age is 18 years old (min. = 16; max. = 24). The development of our measurement instruments took place in two steps: First, we conducted a small number of expert interviews. Based on the results of these interviews and on existing research literature, we developed four standardized Likert-scales to assess multiple aspects of attitudes towards disability and inclusion and various questions concerning possible influence factors such as prior experiences with people with a disability. We labeled the scales discomfort in social interaction (mainly adapted from Gething & Wheeler, 1992; example item: “In contact with people with disabilities I feel unsure because I don’t know how to behave”), disability-as-deficiency perspective (mainly based on Seifert & Stangl, 1981, and self-developed items; example: “You should not expect too much from a person with a disability”), and context factors perspective (mainly self-developed items; example: “The definition of disability depends of the societal context”). The fourth scale, approval of inclusion, consists of statements based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (example: “People with disabilities should have the same political rights as people without disabilities”). The answering formats of the scales range from 1=’does not apply at al’ to 6=’does fully apply’. All questionnaires were distributed personally by our research staff and filled out by the young volunteers during the obligatory accompanying courses of the FSJ program. The first measurement took place in the introductory courses in August and September 2017, the second takes place in spring 2018 and the third in summer 2018.
Stepwise conducted exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses of the first data run with Mplus 8.0 suggest a relatively good fit for the assumed four-factor structure of attitudes towards disability and inclusion (CFI = .95, RMSEA = .05). The internal consistencies of the scales are acceptable to good (.68 ≤ α ≤ .81). Exploratory analyses of the interrelation between the dimensions reveal different significant correlations (p < .05). Discomfort in interaction is correlated positively with the deficiency perspective (r = .25) and a negative with the context perspective (r = -.22). The deficiency perspective and the context perspective are correlated negatively (r = -.42). Finally, approval of inclusion is correlated negatively with the deficiency perspective (r = -.46) and positively with the context perspective (r = .29). As for possible influence factors, a positive valuation of prior contacts with people with disabilities is correlated negatively with discomfort in interaction (r = -.21) and the deficiency perspective (r = -.25) and positively with the context perspective (r = .19) and approval of inclusion (r = .25) while the amount of former contact is only correlated (negatively) to the deficiency perspective (r = -.15, p for all correlations < .05). Overall, our questionnaire proved to be a useful instrument for measuring the dimensions of attitudes towards disability and inclusion. Further analyses will be conducted after the second and third measurement point and presented on the conference. We expect attitudes changes at the end of the year in those volunteers who work with people with disabilities. We expect attitude changes to be moderated by amount and personal valuation of the experiences with people with disabilities prior to and during the volunteering program. We will discuss our results within the international perspective of promoting “full and effective participation and inclusion in society” (UN Convention, §3).
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