STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION

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CHAPTER 5 ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF DATA FROM INTERVIEWS

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this chapter is to represent and interpret the data obtained from various interviewees in this study. As the study is qualitative in nature, the responses of selected interviewees are presented person-by-person in the light of the research questions posed in Chapter 1. In particular, the raw data obtained from the different groups of interviewees were analysed in order to answer the first sub-question fully and the second and third sub-questions partially.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The secondary research questions that were answered through the data obtained from the interviews are the following:
1) What are the challenges that students with VI face at AAU?
2) What resources (human, physical and financial) are necessary to provide effective support to students with VI?
3) What solutions are available for AAU to overcome the challenges or barriers that students with VI face?
The data obtained from interviewees were categorized and analysed in order to identify the existing challenges or barriers that students with VI face at AAU and their possible solutions together with the necessary resources for supporting the students.

INTERVIEWS

As indicated in Chapter 4, the researcher first conducted a group interview with eight students with VI in order to collect qualitative data. Secondly, individual interviews were conducted with two of the group participants whom the researcher identified as potential informants for the study with the purpose of exploring detailed information. Finally, individual interviews were conducted with two lecturers and three senior managers. After conducting each category of interviews, the researcher transcribed the recorded responses of each interviewee. Eventually, the researcher represented all the data by sorting them into four separate tables representing four homogeneous groups. The names of the participants were substituted with codes in order to meet the ethical principles stated in Chapter 4. The researcher used both the group and individual codes for the interviewees when representing the raw data in this chapter as well as in the appendices. Thus:
The group interview participants are indicated as ‘Group Interview (GI) Participant 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8’;
Individual interviews with two selected students with VI as indicated as ‘Student Interview (SI) Participant 1 and 2’;
Individual interviews with lecturers are coded as ‘Lecturer Interview (LI) Participant 1 and 2’;
Individual interviews with senior managers are coded as ‘Senior Manager Interview (SMI) Participant 1, 2, and 3’.
For example, the responses of students with VI in the group interview are presented in a table and included in this study as Appendix 5. Similarly, the responses of the two students with VI who participated in individual interviews are presented as Appendix 6. The responses of two lecturers and three senior managers are presented consecutively as Appendix 7 and 8.
In accordance with the steps of the process of presenting qualitative data (see Chapter 4), the researcher sorted the overall meanings and impressions from the transcriptions of all interviews by creating codes in the margins using numbers, letters of the alphabet and words. The researcher then generated categories of information including topics and sub-topics based on the sorted text and the codes given in the margins of the interview scripts to facilitate the data presentation and analysis. The categories or themes constructed under a separate section or heading were considered as broad findings of this study. This was done manually by the researcher since he found it difficult to get the computer software to do so. Subsequently, the researcher represented the raw data and interpreted the empirical evidence obtained from each interviewee and groups of informants in line with the main and sub-themes generated under each research question of this study. Comparisons of findings were made while interpreting the data obtained from individual interviewees or group of interviewees. In addition, the common views of interviewees were contrasted with the prior findings obtained from the literature study. The main reason for making such comparisons was to triangulate the data from different sources so as to maintain the trustworthiness or validity of the findings from this research.
The researcher followed each of the steps mentioned above when dealing with the representation and interpretation of all the data obtained from respondents of the group and individual interviews. The researcher selectively presented the responses of interviewees by quoting them directly and placing them in italics and in indented spaces under the topics or themes generated in answer to the research sub-questions of this study. Then the quotations were described by the researcher to show the common and opposing responses from various interviews. The data analysis process also integrated the description of data gathered from interviewees with the literature reviewed in Chapter 2 and 3 of this study in order to identify contradictions and agreements between them. With this in mind, the researcher first represented and interpreted the data obtained from various interviewees about the challenges that students with VI face at AAU in order to answer the first secondary question of this study.

CHALLENGES THAT STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT FACE AT ADDIS ABABA UNIVERSITY (AAU)

As it was mentioned in Chapter 1, the first secondary or sub-question of this study is: `What are the challenges that students with VI face at AAU?’. This research question led the researcher to explore the challenges that students with VI face when learning and living in the particular context of AAU. This question was generally addressed through the literature study in Chapter 2 and 3. The literature review found that there are many documents and theories that discuss the sources of challenges faced by disabled people. The 1993 UN Convention, the Salamanca Frameworks, the Ethiopian Educational Policy and Special Needs Education Strategy, the Social Model of Disability and associated models and theories, including the Mutual Adjustment model, critical disability theory and Vygotsky`s theory of learning, all acknowledge that disabling and unresponsive physical, political, social and cultural environments can be the source of challenges for inclusive learning of visually impaired students at all levels of education. The responses of interviewees in this study generally indicated that the existing physical, political and social circumstances of AAU were the source of various obstacles or challenges faced by students with VI in terms of their inclusive learning and social interactions. One of the most significant challenges that made inclusive higher education very difficult for students with VI at AAU seems to be the absence of clear and enabling policy.

Lack of clear and enabling policy

As indicated in Chapter 3, in higher education institutions of several developing countries there seems to be a lack of clear and enabling policies for the inclusion of students with VI. This also seems to be the case at AAU because the majority of interviewees in this study claimed that the inclusion of students with VI at the university was adversely affected by the absence of clear and enabling policy. In particular the following remarks on the absence of clear and enabling policy frameworks that address the rights and equal opportunities of students with VI were made by participants:
In general, there are no suitable rules and regulations to students with VI in Addis Ababa University (AAU) (Group Interview/GI Participant 1).
I cannot say there is a policy or legislation in the university that ascertain the rights and equal beneficiaries of the students with VI. …there is nothing that benefits us and stands for our rights. ….there is no law or
system that is legally documented and implemented so as to respect the rights of students with VI.
… I think that there is no a legal document that ascertain our benefits even in the disability centre (Student Interview/SI Participant 2).
… it is difficult for me to say there is a clear policy or law in AAU which enables students with VI to get different support and make adjustments on those things provided to us.
I said this because I do not know whether there is a policy or law in relation to the issue you raise. Though there is some support the university provides, they do it not because it is our legal right but because they do consider it as a charity (SI Participant 1).
There are not any special rules and regulations that are issued for students with VI at the department, faculty, and university level….
Although it is difficult to say there is a clear policy and legislation that confirms the rights of students with VI, we just provide them the resources that we give for the sighted students in our department
(Senior Manager Interview/SMI Participant 1).
… What I want to say is that it is difficult to say that there is a policy or legislation in the university that ensures the rights and equal benefits of students with VI. However, there is something that is done for students with VI in the university (SMI Participant 2).
… Especially, as there is no a special rule for students with VI, there is a trend to treat them with the rules and regulations issued for all students in general (SMI Participant 3).
I do not know the disability-related theoretical frameworks, UN conventions and our country’s rules and regulation. … I do not have any information whether there is any legal base in the university’s legislation or policy concerning the inclusion of students with VI. I have never seen (Lecturer Interview/LI Participant 1).
Since I along with my colleagues do not know anything about what is included in the conventions, rules and regulations as well as what should be done for students with VI, there is no special support that we did for them. …
Nevertheless, as we feel humanity and we believe that students with VI should learn, we teach them together with the sighted ones (LI participant 2).
As indicated in the above statements, the majority of interviewees from all groups claimed that AAU lacks a clear and enabling policy or legislation to ensure the rights and equal opportunities of students with VI. In addition, most respondents from the student and lecturer groups reflected that they were not informed about the rights of students with VI in the university`s rules and regulations. On the other hand, all of the participants from the management group responded that there were indeed appropriate policies at the university and that these were included in the general rules and regulations issued to all students. Other than this, there are no special guidelines for ensuring the rights of students with VI at the university. It is evident that there is no clear and enabling policy or legislation to ensure the rights and equal opportunities of students with VI at AAU. Unfortunately the university seems to provide the support as a charity rather than as the legal right of students with VI.
In general, most of the respondents from all the groups did not know about the contents of the university policy. While they had observed that some support had been put in place for students with VI they were not aware of any effort from the university to familiarize them with the existing legislation.
Although it was stated in the university legislation that AAU would establish an office to devise and implement mechanisms to ensure equal opportunities and fair treatment of students with VI, different respondents questioned the practicality of this legislative provision. In this regard, the following comments were made by various respondents:
… Nothing has been informed to us whether that legislation has given attention especially to the students with VI or not. Even if there is something in it, we saw nothing practically. There is nothing special (SI Participant 1).
Although there is legislation which gives attention to the rights and equal opportunities of students with VI, it is impractical. No affirmative action is taken for us. What the university is doing for students with VI is not different from the sighted ones (GI Participant 2).
… The other thing is that the top management bodies of the university are reluctant and lack knowledge about us. As there is not any clear thing in the rules about what should be done for us, we do not have the courage to ask about our rights (GI Participant 4).
The management is treating us like the sighted students and does not respect our rights.
…The other problem is that administrators’ lack of knowledge about students with VI. They treat and consider us in the same way as to the sighted students (GI Participant 7).
… As there is not any rule sent from the Ministry of Education which shows that their package is less than that of their sighted counterparts, they are not treated in a special way. I do not have any information that shows something special should be done to the students with VI (SMI Participant 3).
… Lecturers do not know what is there in the legislation unless they read about it. Lecturers are not made to know what they should do for students with VI through a formal communication (SMI Participant 1).
I could have said the university`s legislation has created a problem on inclusive education of students with VI if I had known the extent of the situation in the university policy or legislation (SMI Participant 2).
As can be seen from the above responses most of the participants thought that the university did not inform students with VI and their lecturers about the content of the existing legislation, especially articles focusing on the inclusion of students with VI. As most participants from the student group noted, the existing university legislation did not pay attention to the special needs of students with VI. No affirmative action was taken for students with VI as a result of any legislation. The few guidelines that were in the legislation were impractical. In general, student participants felt that the university legislation actually caused practical problems in their learning. Participants from student and manager groups agreed that such problems were created because of an absence of clear rules and regulations in the university legislation. In fact, student participants claimed that the university community failed to respond in accordance with the regulations. The students even doubted the existence of institutional legislation at AAU since they could not see it in effect.
Students with VI were not consulted when the university developed and revised its senate legislation. For instance, one student participant explained the situation as follows:
Our participation has never been asked on the legislation that is prepared. It has never been practiced in the university. We know that we should give our suggestions as to the UN conventions as well as the experience of the universities abroad. However, we were never asked to forward our suggestions before and after the preparation of the university’s legislation. No orientation was given for students with VI about our rights and its legal background. … As nothing was put into practice, nobody knew about the legislation of AAU (SI Participant 1).
The above statement suggests that the university did not provide sufficient information for students with VI concerning the contents of the legislation devised to promote their rights. As a result, students with VI did not know about the theoretical or practical intentions of AAU `s legislation. In addition students with VI were not included when the university developed and revised its policy, and as a result their concerns were not considered. According to the principles of theories and the models of disability, including critical disability theory and the mutual adjustment model, it is vital for students with VI to be involved in the development of inclusive policy (see 2.2.1.3 and 2.2.1.5).
The university policy or legislation did not incorporate the basic theoretical and legal frameworks set out internationally and nationally to ensure the application of inclusive policies and practices. When asked to what extent the university policy or legislation incorporated the international and national guidelines and theoretical principles that inform the full participation and inclusion of students with VI, some respondents described the existing circumstances at AAU as follows:
…I do not know the disability-related theoretical frameworks, UN conventions and our country’s rules and regulation. …I get students with VI along with sighted students assigned in a class where I teach. When I get both kinds of students in my class, I just teach them together as to my preparation.
… I did nothing to help them other than worrying myself. Although I worry about them, I do not have any idea how to help them. Therefore, I have not done anything to support them by understanding the UN conventions and theoretical principles other than teaching them together with the sighted students by allowing them to learn by recording my voice. I personally do not know what I can do for students with VI. They come together and they learn together. I do not know any other alternative other than doing this. This is a problem to me (LI participant 1). I as well as my other colleagues have no information about how we should entertain students with VI in inclusive education based on the international agreements, national policies, and theoretical principles. For this reason, I do nothing different for my students with VI other than teaching them in the same way as to the sighted students (LI participant 2).
I do not know whether the above mentioned international agreements and the national rules and regulations are incorporated in the transformational policy and senate legislation of AAU. What I know is the fact that there is something mentioned not directly for students with VI but for those who have physical impairment in the university’s senate legislation. There are some articles though it is a bit difficult for me to mention. It is also difficult to say that all these articles are known by those responsible bodies at each level.
It has not been even tried to let lecturers be acquainted with the articles by the university (SMI Participant 1).
This is a difficult question. It is the disability centre that knows in detail whether or not the aforementioned international agreements and national laws are included in the university legislation. As it is not directly related to my duty, I do not have anything to say about it (SMI Participant 3).
As seen in the statements above, one manager and all the participant lecturers confirmed that they did not know whether or not the international and national legal frameworks as well as theoretical principles on the inclusion of students with VI were included in AAU`s policy or legislation. In particular it seems as if lecturing staff did not know about and were not even aware of the UN conventions, national laws, or the theoretical principles that should inform the inclusive policies and practices of the university. They did not seem to differentiate between students with VI and sighted students in their teaching. Since they did not have any idea of the aforementioned legal frameworks and theoretical principles, they did not do anything to support students with VI other than teach them in the same way as they taught sighted students. On the other hand, one respondent from the management group argued that the university policy could not be different from the international and national laws regarding people with disability and used the establishment of the disability centre as an example of AAU’s compliance. The other manager participant was not sure whether the university policy included the international and national laws. The participant thought that it was not within the ambit of his duties and suggested that the question be answered by the disability centre. As discussed in Chapter 3 this is contrary to the legal frameworks and theoretical principles that require AAU to go beyond the physical establishment of a disability centre. For instance, it was mentioned in Chapter 2 that it is incumbent on UN member countries, including Ethiopia, and institutions to recognize and implement international conventions on the rights and equal opportunities of people with impairments.
In general, most respondents from all the groups acknowledged the absence of clear and enabling policy as being one of the challenges preventing the inclusive education of students with VI at AAU. This is supported by the literature study, reported in Chapter 3, where it is mentioned that either the absence of binding policies or the inability to implement existing policies is becoming a common challenge for higher education institutions in developing countries. In the same way, most participants in this study stated that AAU did not have clear, binding and enabling policies or legislation to access support that students with VI needed during their studies.
Furthermore, most respondents from all the groups showed their great concern about the practicality of the policy framework, even though students with VI did not have access to any substantial special services from the university. This is in contrast with the finding reported in Chapter 2 that higher education institutions, including AAU, had the responsibility to publicize their policies widely and make them accessible in a range of formats that would suit students with VI.
Surprisingly, the majority of respondents, including senior managers, indicated that they did not know what was stated in international and national legal documents or the university policy regarding the inclusive education of students with VI. This is indicative of the challenging circumstances that exist at AAU. Furthermore the university had not engaged students with VI when it prepared and revised its legislation. As a result they could not access the changes made or put forward their concerns on the revision. The respondents also had a critical concern about the paradigms and theories which influenced the attitudes and actions of AAU `s staff toward students with VI and the services they needed.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Declaration 
Acknowledgements 
Summary 
Table of Contents 
List of tables and figures 
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND ORIENTATION TO THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.4 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 DEMARCATATION OF THE STUDY
1.6 RESEARCH DESIGN
1.7 CONCEPT CLARIFICATION
1.8 STRUCTURE OF THE THESIS
1.9 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 2 STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT AND INCLUSION
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 INCLUSION
2.3 DISCOURSES ON INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
2.4 LEGAL FRAMEWORKS FOR INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
2.5 THE RIGHTS OF STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
2.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3 STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 HIGHER EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS OF STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT
3.3 CHALLENGES TO INCLUSIVE HIGHER EDUCATION
3.4 POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS FOR REMOVING CHALLENGES TO INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
3.5 BEST PRACTICES FOR CREATING A FULLY INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
3.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH METHOLODOLY
4.1 INTRODUCTION 75
4.2 RESTATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
4.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.4 RESEARCH METHODS
4.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 ANALYSIS AND INTERPETATION OF DATA FROM INTERVIEWS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
5.3 INTERVIEWS
5.4 CHALLENGES THAT STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT FACE AT ADDIS UNIVERSITY (AAU)
5.5 SOLUTIONS TO OVERCOME THE CHALLENGES
5.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 6 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION FROM DELPHI QUESTIONNAIRES
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
6.3 DELPHI EXPERTS
6.4 THE DELPHI INVESTIGATION
6.5 PRESENTATION OF DATA FROM THE SECOND ROUND DELPHI INVESTIGATION
6.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 7 SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 REVIEW OF FINDINGS
7.3 RECOMMENDATIONS
7.4 FINAL REMARKS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
BIBLIOGRAPHY
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