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NNDR Poster Abstract


I will be presenting a poster entitled ‘Mapping the experiences of disabled students who use Computer-Mediated-Communication in Higher Education’ to the Nordic Network on Disability Research conference "Participation for all – the front line of disability research" (May 10 – 12, 2007) in Göteborg, Sweden.  This poster is based on MA research completed last year. If you are interested in the topic and would like a copy of my research please email me at:  I will post the poster file in accessible formats here, online, after the conference.

Mapping the experiences of disabled students who use Computer-Mediated-Communication in Higher Education.

Participation in UK Higher Education is increasing. Universities are embedding blended-learning across departments. Consequently the drivers for accessible e-learning tools and materials are paramount. However, the implied social dynamics of online text-based constructivist tools also need consideration.

Are forums, discussion groups, Listservs and other Computer-Mediated-Communication (CMC) tools transforming or perpetuating traditional (dis)ability difference?

This qualitative study is based on phenomenographic interviews with 3 Undergraduate and Postgraduate students who considered their own CMC experiences. Activity theory was used to guide contextual questioning.

Results indicate that disabled students experience CMC in ways different to those described by frameworks established according to perceived ‘norms’ of online behaviour and embodiment. For some, the notion of controlled or conscious disclosure facilitates Social Presence and cognitive engagement meaning a purely functional experience of CMC is routinely blurred with higher social usage. This has potentially beneficial educative outcomes. However, results also show that access barriers persist for all participants. Furthermore, CMC has the capacity to actively disable students with print-impairments, who withdraw from participation. In conclusion, CMC is both transforming and perpetuating disability.

Continued research must ensure that the assumptions of research based solely on the actions of enabled student groups are challenged by disabled experience.

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