Constructions and paradigms in tension: Visually impaired students and higher education

Croft, Emma Louise (2018) Constructions and paradigms in tension: Visually impaired students and higher education. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Whilst there has been research that has examined the experiences of disabled students in higher education, to date none has examined the experience of being visually impaired -and- being a visually impaired student. By utilising a Critical Disability Studies (CDS) approach I consider how visually impaired students experience non-normative and ableist discourses within their life as a student as well as in their day to day lives beyond university. In doing so I show that for visually impaired students, higher education is a complex arena where there are allusions to participation and transformation, yet the sector often reinforces oppressive and disabling notions. The disabling attitudes and actions, regarding visual impairment, these students experience are culturally and historically rooted in concepts heavily loaded with tragedy, pity and fear.

Using a critical Grounded Theory approach (Charmaz, 2014) I examine the experiences of a sample of participants drawn from an informal network and as told within loose semi structured interviews in which participants talked about their experiences as a student and their experiences as a visually impaired person, more generally, contextualising their university experience within it. Participants’ accounts highlight the complex systems within education that they are required to negotiate as a disabled student and, critically, they emphasise the many and complex interactions experienced in their daily lives. At the intersections of these two sets of experiences are often ableist assertions about visual impairment and visually impaired people, and the interviews show the importance of questioning normative discourses about visual impairment. I argue that despite many attempts to challenge disabling discourses these remain prevalent in contemporary HE and that taking an intersectional, CDS approach can reconceptualise being a visually impaired student as an autonomous and non-tragic identity, which in turn promotes a participatory and transformative higher education experience.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: critical disability studies, grounded theory, disability studies, emancipatory research, visual impairment
Subjects: L300 Sociology
X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Ay Okpokam
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2020 15:14
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 20:07

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