What are Welsh HEI Websites Telling Disabled Applicants about Academia’s Perception of Disability?

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


While Higher Education largely interprets and responds to the construct of disability in accordance with the Equality Act (2010), social constructionism (Rapley, 2010) and critical disability studies (Goodley, 2013, 2017) assert that the construct of disability is socially negotiated and perpetuated, with institutions such as universities having significant voice in defining what constitutes ability, knowledge, expertise and power (Dolmage, 2017). In line with this epistemology, this research study analyses the web pages of all eight Welsh Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs) Disability Service pages. The method of Qualitative Content Analysis (Schreier, 2012) enables consideration of multiple components including use of language, terminology and photography, as well as discussion of academic, cultural, social and logistical aspects of student life. The development of a concept-driven coding frame enables consideration of the absence of certain criteria as well as the frequency and prominence of others. The ensuing discussion considers, from a Critical Disability Studies perspective, the potential influence of semantic choices, layout, accessibility and elements considered relevant for discussion and highlighting relating to disabled students’ experiences. Emerging themes include a prevalence of medical model terminology; a diversity of detail, provision and information available; lack of visual representation of disability; some holistic considerations of inclusion in Higher Education; and some outdated or inaccessible information. This study identifies some examples of good practice and recognition of neurodiversity as well as a continuing alignment with a deficit model which could contribute to the under-representation of disabled students in Higher Education (Department for Education, 2019). Recommendations from this study include a further engagement with disabled applicants and students to understand whether these considerations echo their experiences and perspectives, and a more holistic representation of inclusive potential at USW in marketing and recruitment activities. This could have significant impact for recruitment, lived experience at university and the perpetuation of attitudes towards disability and diversity in wider society. Key words: disabled students, applicants, disability, inclusion, access, website References Equality Act (2010) [online], Available at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/pdfs/ukpga_20100015_en.pdf Accessed 19th March 2019 Department for Education (2019), ‘Evaluation of Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)’ [online], Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-disabled-students-allowances-dsas Accessed 8th February 2019 Dolmage, J. T. (2017), Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education, University of Michigan Press Goodley, D. (2017), Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction (2nd Edn), London: SAGE Goodley, D. (2013), ‘Dis/Entangling Critical Disability Studies’, Disability & Society, 28(5), p. 631 – 644 Rapley, M. (2010), The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Schreier, M. (2012), Qualitative Content Analysis in Practice, London: SAGE
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2019
EventFLSE Learning & Teaching Conference 2019: Making an Impact - USW , United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jul 20194 Jul 2019


ConferenceFLSE Learning & Teaching Conference 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • disability
  • disabled applicants
  • internet research
  • welsh universities


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