04 SES 01 B, Barriers To Inclusion? School Placement, Space And Access
Barriers hinder the appropriation of space, be it in a physical or in a metaphorical sense. The German term ‘Barrierefreiheit‘ (mostly translated as accessibility) is key to the discussion on inclusion and refers not just to the absence of physical barriers but has a broader meaning inlcuding metaphorical barriers (Horsthemke, 2017; Trescher, 2018). Accessibility to all students and teachers is a sine qua non of inclusive schools and a precondition for inclusive education in general. But completely barrier-free schools are less a state but rather subject to a never-ending approximation process ‘addressing all barriers, including physical, structural, environmental, emotional, psychological’ (Emmanuel & Ackroyd, 1996). Often, accessibility - not least because of having clear legal norms for accessibility of buildings - is reduced to construction details of the school building, but pupils with disabilities (and their parents as well) are also facing barriers in terms of lack of supporting staff, inappropriate transportation means or not being able to access their timetable, just to name a few very basic ones. Decision makers in the school system are often not aware of barriers that cannot be removed by technical means. Another point is that the understanding of inclusion also means a ‘shift in responsibility for access from individuals to society’ resulting in discourses of equality of entitlement on the one hand and equality of delivery on the other (Nind & Seale, 2009). This means that society - represented in this very context by school authorities and other bodies maintaining schools - has to provide barrier-free schools as part of their responsibilities.
In the proposed paper the broader notion of accessibility will be discussed in the context of the school system and an instrument for getting an overview of the status quo of the approximation process towards barrier-free schools will be presented. Furthermore, empirical data from large scale surveys applying this instrument in the field will give an insight of how far the goal of an accessible school system is already reached in inclusive pilot regions in Austria and where there is need for further development.
An online survey among all headmasters of general schools (n=730) and their administrative teachers (n=1515) in three Austrian provinces was done to collect data on physical, structural, pedagogical, and psychological accessibility of their schools. Part of the questionnaire was based on the Index of Inclusion (Booth & Ainscow, 2002) in order to cover more pedagogical aspects of access. Other parts of the instrument dealt with structural accessibility (e.g. use of easy language where appropriate, accessible school websites and whole day care) as well as pedagogical accessibility and, of course, also construction details of the school building. In addition, headmasters were also asked about their views and experiences of development needs - on school level as well as on system level - for a fully accessible and inclusive school system. Descriptive statistics, qualitative content analyses of open-ended questions as well as factor analyses and cluster analyses are used to process the data and give decision makers on various levels of the school authorities an overview of the accessibility of schools. Regression models show various structural factors influencing accessibility.
First analyses show that most schools are physically accessible, but regarding other aspects of accessibility, part of the headmasters articulated a lack of support staff. The ongoing analyses will give a more comprehensive and broader picture about "Barrierefreiheit" in education systems. The results should broaden decision makers’ understanding of accessibility, raise their attention for other types of barriers and give hints for necessary developments.
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