09-ECRP-032 Qualitative Tracking with Young Disabled People in European States (Quali-TYDES)

The original Qualitydes study aims included the generation of a comparative understanding of national policy regimes in relation to disability, family, work and welfare, and the investigation of the potential for using qualitative case study methods to assist in monitoring states’ implementation of international policy obligations, such as those arising from the United Nations and European Union.

Our approach was to conduct policy analysis at the national level in relation to each of the relevant areas, and to attempt comparison of these in journal papers, where the policy comparison would either be the main focus of the paper, or would support comparison of the qualitative data gathered in each country.

Each individual team furthermore gathered the ‘life story’ accounts of twenty young adults with disabilities and conducted a ‘life-course’ analysis at the national level. The teams collaborated on the research design, including the sampling and interview methodology, developed shared ‘coding’ to allow for comparison in the analysis stages, and then shared their data analyses in the generation of a number of comparative journal papers. With four teams participating in total, from Ireland, Austria, Spain, and the Czech Republic, we have transcribed and analysed the accounts of more than 80 participants, with up to three rounds of contact over three years with each participant. The methodological concepts underpinning the study were elaborated through a special investigation by the Austrian team.

The scope of the original project design had to be reduced due to the fact that the intended project lead (the UK team who were the chief designers of the project, Mark Priestley and Sonali Shah, then at Leeds University) were not funded and the reduced funding basis of some of the remaining teams. Without a resourced project lead, the partners agreed to divide the comparative aspects of the project into four strands, each of which would be led by a volunteer team member. The topic of the strand was set by its leader according to their own expertise and resources, and so mainly focused on the field of education. (The educational focus was also a result of the age group of our participants, who had spent most of their lives to date in educational settings of some sort.)

The comparative work of the Qualitydes project is still underway at the time of reporting, due to the extension of the project at national level for three of the four countries. Reporting on the findings of the four investigative strands below is therefore not complete, and the findings described here are preliminary and indicative.

The four strands of the comparative efforts of the Qualitydes study are:
i.    “Inclusive education in progress: policy evolution in four European countries.”

This strand of investigation sought to compare the evolution of inclusive education policy at the national level in each of the four participating countries, all of which operate under the shared policy environment of the UN, EU and European Commission. As expected, the countries were found to be at different stages of their journeys towards more inclusive education. The legacy policy and provision patterns in each country were arguably more influential even today than policy ‘intent’; financial and structural forces shaped the scope and ambition of change in each example. Different sociocultural movements were influential in accelerating the inclusion agenda in different countries. All contributors reported progress, with much left to achieve in their education systems.

ii.    “Pathways to Inclusion in European Higher Education Systems.”

This strand of study focused only on the accounts of participants across the four countries who accessed tertiary education, in order to assess which institutional pathways facilitated access, which transitions and turning points could be identified in the individual biographies, and which resources and capital were activated to what effect. The impacts of successful negotiation of inclusive educational pathways on increased opportunity across the life course are also investigated.

iii.    “Mainstream schools and the life course of disabled students with disabilities: the role of families. Insights from a European project.”

Within this strand of study, emphasis was placed on the interplay of families, schools and disabled students. Data showed how families across participating countries used their social, cultural and economic capital to safeguard their children´s trajectories through education over time. While these transmission processes are relatively familiar in impact studies, this investigation specifically focussed on experiences in mainstream schooling and included assessment of the long term effects of accessing mainstream trajectories on the life course beyond compulsory education stages.

iv.    “Personal Assistance for Disabled People in Europe: A reality or an expectation?”

This strand of work will show that personal assistance has made a significant difference in our participants’ lives, as it enables them to fully participate in tertiary education and in working life. Conversely, lack of access to such assistance has a severely limiting effect on opportunities for participation across the life-course.