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Classifications of disabilities in the field of education (CLASDISA)

This research project aims to provide an international and cross-cultural comparative study in the field of special needs and inclusive education.  It investigates which environmental factors facilitate or restrict activity and participation of school-aged children with disabilities in the field of education in different societal and cultural contexts. The project refers to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the adapted Child and Youth version (ICF-CY). This classification regards disability as a product of impairments of physical and mental structures and functions, activity limitations and participation restrictions in combination with environmental and personal factors.

Based on the classification scheme of the ICF/ICF-CY the research project investigates barriers and facilitators in the field of education in Austria, Thailand, and Ethiopia in cooperation with staff members of local universities. These three countries differ to a great extent in regard to societal and cultural contexts. With reference to the Human Development Index (HDI), the societal development can be regarded as high in Austria, medium in Thailand, and low in Ethiopia.

The empirical data for this study will be collected through field research. The study will follow a unifom design and will be undertaken simultaneously in the three countries. Using a mixed-methods approach including a grounded-theory-based qualitative part, the project takes an ecological perspective on children and the micro systems, which they are involved in, such as their families and school classes. Interviews with professionals and parents as well as adapted techniques for capturing the perspectives of the children with disabilities will help to reconstruct societal and cultural aspects of disability. Additionally, the project will include quantitative surveys with the same target groups to identify societal and cultural factors regarded as barriers and facilitators in the educational process. Thus, while the study intends to use the ICF classification as a tool for educational research, it will critically examine its applicability in different cultures and societies. The research project involves innovative aspects such as: (1) fundamental research on the relations between society, culture, disability and education, (2) application of the ICF and ICF-CY in the field of education including its critical examination, (3) development of research methods through international scientific cooperation in the field of special needs education.


This project is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Project Number: P22178

Project Duration: 1.2.2010-31.1.2015

Classifications of disabilities in the field of education
Department of Education
University of Vienna

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