A Qualitative Analysis of University Students' Receptivity to Peers With Disabilities

Document Type

Conference Proceeding




Education and Arts






This article was originally published as: Biswas, M., & Waugh, R. F. (2008). A qualitative analysis of university students' receptivity to peers with disabilities. Proceedings of 2007 AARE International Educational Research Conference. Fremantle, Western Australia. AARE. Original article available here


This qualitative study examined university students’ receptivity to peers with disabilities at two universities in Perth, Western Australia (Edith Cowan University and the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle), and two universities in India (The University of Kolkata formerly Calcutta, and the University of Jadavpur). Data were collected by two methods: (1) written open-ended data (N= 201); and (2) two focus groups, one in Perth (N=10) and one in Kolkata (N=10).The two data sets were analysed using the Miles and Huberman approach. That is, the data were segmented and codified in the search for themes, clusters, patterns, abstractions and propositions. Specifically, the research describes the feelings of responsibility and commitment to educational goals for peers with disabilities in an inclusive or general university environment, documents the barriers and difficulties, and the successes perceived by nondisabled students in an inclusively structured place of education or in integrated education programmes, and compares the data concerning university students’ receptivity of peers with disabilities in India and Western Australia to illustrate a different perception of disabilities. The open-ended data analysis on one hand, showed that students lacked knowledge of factors such as awareness, opportunities, and information about disabilities, and information about how they peers with disabilities could be helped, and on the other, helped to establish links between attitudes and behaviours that may lead to better attitude and behaviour to peers with disabilities through more interactions between regular students and students with disabilities. The main results from the focus group interviews indicate that university students have a positive receptivity to peers with disabilities. Although significant differences were indicated in the actual behaviours of regular students toward peers with disabilities, the attitudes were found to be, in general, positive in all the four universities in Western Australia and India, with students in India being more positive and supportive than students in Western Australia.