Ideological Constructions of Disability in Higher Education Health Related Programmes: Human Rights or What?

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:50
Oral Presentation
Anastasia LIASIDOU, St. Mary's University, United Kingdom
Katerina MAVROU, European University Cyprus, Cyprus
As the percentage of people with disabilities of all ages globally increases issues of social justice and equality in HE become multidimensional, including more pronounced emphases on the promotion of disability rights across all academic disciplines. According the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, disability is an ‘evolving concept’ that is largely contingent on social conditions and exigencies. The Convention highlights the necessity of promoting a disability rights discourse in the education of doctors and other health professionals, and to enable them to reflect upon their own role in creating and perpetuating disabling barriers. This study explored the extent to which the programmes and curriculum outlines in health-related academic disciplines in Cyprus are informed by a disability rights discourse.

The study used textual data derived from 32 medical and other health related higher-education programmes outlines available on five Cypriot universities websites. The analysis brought to the surface a number of ‘discursive absences’ that manifest the scarcity of disability-related considerations. In general, the language used or not-used indicates the prevalence of an individual and deficit oriented approach to disability. Terminology and the context in which disability is presented, seem to be relevant to the approach adopted based on the field of study and related scientific discipline, the majority of which lie under the individual model of disability. Findings suggest the inadequacy of these programmes to conceptualise disability as an issue of ‘cultural politics’. Hence, it is argued that HE programmes should primarily concentrate on reconceptualising and redefining disability as a political and human rights issue. This can be partly achieved by changing negative and discriminatory attitudes towards disability and by enabling health professionals to problematise their own assumptions and misconceptions about disability while nurturing their social and ethical responsibility to view their patients as rights bearing subjects.