Child and youth voice research findings

Enabling participation: research with young people on ableism

AUTHOR: SHORE & Whariki Research Centre

Results of a three-year (2016-2018) mixed methods research project, involving 35 young Aucklanders (aged 12-25) with disabilities. The study examined the factors that enabled or constrained their opportunities to fully participate in community life – in education, employment, recreation and a range of other settings.

Key themes included:

  • Discrimination and ableist attitudes are the biggest barrier to young peole's participation in schools and communities.  
  • Social attitudes can undermine inclusion and participation as much, if not more than, inaccessible built environments.
  • Ableist discrimination, encountered on a regular basis, took a range of forms - from overt exclusion and prejudice to staring, unwelcome touching and inappropriate questions. 
  • In classroom and recreational settings, many participants felt they were put in the ‘too hard’ basket. On the other hand, when leaders and facilitators were willing to work flexibly and creatively with young people to get them involved, genuine participation and inclusion was possible.  School sports and physical education highlighted some of the best and worst school-based experiences of inclusion and exclusion. 

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