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Will a class accept a freshman with disability?


A unique research has been held in Belarus for the first time: sociologists found out to what degree young people are tolerant to people with disabilities. The results of the research are planned to use in programs of inclusive education. We remind you that in September 2015 our country has accepted a Concept on inclusive education.

According to a sociologist, professor of the department of sociology of Belarusian State University Evgeniy Kechin the research was held in two stages. At the first stage stereotypes of behavior of young people aged 15-22 from Minsk, Gomel and Kobrin and their attitude to persons with disabilities, their readiness  to interact with peers having peculiarities of development and their wish to study with them were evaluated. Between the stages pupils and students of professional and secondary schools and students of higher educational establishments took part in two educational trainings which were supposed to destroy stereotypes and to help to get new knowledge. During the second stage researchers paid attention to changes that occurred in accepting people with disabilities by students.

No negative attitude but some anxiety

Polls showed that every third person has a person with disability in his surrounding – an acquaintance, neighbor or a relative. Many of them rendered assistance to persons with disabilities: helped to cross the road, climb a stairs etc.

About 50 % of respondents at the first stage said that they didn’t know how to behave during a meeting with a person with disability.

- On the whole there are no negative emotions during a meeting with a person with disability according to respondents – says the sociologist. – But a more than a quarter of respondents mentioned: they are afraid that they also can become disabled.

According to statistics at the first stage 68.2% told that when they met a person with disability they felt sorry, pity and sympathy; 55.6% - respect because these people have to overcome a lot.

Virtual correspondence VS real study

Students are ready to communicate with peers with disabilities. But the results show that “the longer the distance the higher is readiness”. For example, more than a half of students are ready to communicate in social networks and skype but only one third is ready to sit at one desk with a disabled. Only 6% of respondents are open to all the forms of communication with peers with disabilities.

More than a half of young people think that pupils with disabilities have to study in specialized schools. They are more intolerable to children with peculiarities of mental development and are loyal to children with visible physical peculiarities.

The most popular answers to the question “who should render assistance to pupils with disabilities in the first place?” were parents and family members – 70% of respondents, parents – 40%, friends – 25-34%.

Pay attention to the fact that young people want the older generation to render assistance and they do not consider themselves as the ones who should do it. Those who have people with disabilities in their environment are willing to help more than those who don’t.

What is barrier-free environment?

A part of the research was devoted to defining the level of awareness. For example, one of the most difficult question for students was a question about Paralympics (72.1% gave the right answer), but no one was able to name a single champion or a sportsman.

- It is not easy for young people to name famous persons with disabilities and only third managed to do it but they could name only one Belarusian celebrity – Nina Matiash.

Even less – 8% of respondents – were able to give a definition to a notion “barrier-free environment”. The researches considered an answer to be right even if a respondent managed to name one element of barrier-free environment.

Tolerant detachment

On the whole we can call young people’s behavior tolerant detachment or tolerance which is detached from communication and responsibility – specialists comment.

Attitude of young people to persons with disabilities is tolerance combined with the low level of knowledge of disability issues. Young people have difficulties in communication with these people because of lack of experience and communication skills. They are mostly ready to communicate using internet.

But the researches pay attention to the fact that the high level of tolerance can be consider as a potential for successful realization of programs in target groups aimed at the development of communication and interaction of teenagers and at realization of inclusion in the sphere of education and other spheres of life.

More knowledge

Educational trainings took part in all the educational establishments where the researches of the first stage took place and the second stage had started.

- The repeated poll showed that participation in trainings increased the level of young people’s awareness and particularly in understanding of the meaning of barrier-free environment for people with different types of disabilities. Almost 40% were able to give a complex definition of the notion, - says Evgenia Kechina. – But at the same time the awareness of the participants in practical issues of communication stayed at the same low level.

The research has confirmed that the majority of young people are tolerant to people with disabilities on the whole but there are no significant changes in the level of readiness to different types of communication with peers with “peculiarities” after the trainings although there are some positive tendencies.

The main apprehensions of integrated education are connected with difficulties of interpersonal communication between teenagers and the absence of physical conditions of environment – says Evgenia Kechina.

She adds: there are some fears that is why one of the most important components of a study process is the presence of positive psychological climate in a group. It can be provided by a continuous pedagogical guidance of inclusive education and of course by the creation of barrier-free environment.

What is needed for inclusion?

Specialists say that an obligatory condition of inclusive education is the preparation of all its participants to joint communication and interaction. Continuous and planned activities aimed at informing about the sphere of disability should be held with pupils and students.

It can psychologically prepare students for a “special” freshman in their class and also will raise the level of responsibility towards peers with disabilities.

Specialists also recommend to develop interaction of peers not only in the frames of study process but also during extracurricular time – during preparation to contests, concerts and other events. It will help to widen the forms of communication.

Should we introduce inclusive education to all educational establishments? It is a difficult and complex process demanding qualified specialists and positive psychological climate in classes and groups. As for now this question remains open – says the sociologist.

The research is a part of a large scale project “Art for inclusion of persons with disabilities”. Among other project’s activities, explains the project’s coordinator and representative of NGO BelAPDIiMI Irina Logvin, there are photo exhibitions, topical master-classes, filming and other events. The main goal of the project is – destruction of the existing stereotypes about persons with disabilities.