Research into Disability and Education

The attitudes and experiences of adults with disabilities regarding education

Researchers: Dr Peter Rule and Ms Taadi Ruth Modipa

Many adults with disabilities in South Africa have never had a chance to attend school or have dropped out at an early age because of poverty and discrimination. There is very little scholarship about the educational backgrounds of adults with disabilities, especially in South Africa. This study investigated the attitudes and experiences of adults with disabilities regarding education. It drew on an interactional model of disability and an embodied understanding of cognition as theoretical frames. The study attempted to adopt an emancipatory action research approach which involved persons with disabilities in conceptualising and conducting the research. It drew on information from interview and focus groups with adults with disabilities involved in adult basic education programmes run by Enable, an NGO based in KwaZulu-Natal.

It found that adults with disabilities had generally negative experiences of education as children but had a strong desire to learn as adults. It also found that involvement in collective learning and action has the potential to transform the body images and self-efficacy of adults with disabilities. The research findings suggest a perspective on adults with disabilities as potentially powerful and resourceful learners and citizens. An article on the study was accepted for publication by the American journal Adult Education Quarterly.