An experimental study to measure the impact of a short-term disability awareness campaign on attitudes of primary school learners towards peers with physical disabilities

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
The trends and practices are geared at a high intensity towards inclusive education in schools, but local research behind its effectiveness is yet unknown. Internationally, it is agreed upon that one key factor hindering inclusive education is negative peer attitudes (Lindsay & Edwards 2013). In order to achieve successful inclusion, one prerequisite that must be in place is peer education and training to increase acceptance of students with physical disabilities. A multi-method physical disability awareness campaign was created with the aim of measuring student attitudes towards peers with physical disabilities. This campaign targeted students in grades 4, 5 and 6 at a non-profit school in Dubai. The aim of this study was to measure the effectiveness of the campaign on the different components of attitude: cognitive, behavioural and affective. It was also important to assess how gender and previous exposure to physical disability affected these results. The participants included 612 students from grades 4, 5 and 6; aged 8-11 years, all part of the intervention group. The intervention was a 2-hour session per class, held with the researcher. This session consisted of a focus group, baseline questionnaire, and the information session. A pilot study was conducted prior to implementation in one class. The Chedoke-McMaster Attitudes Towards Children with Handicaps Scale (CATCH) was utilized to assess the different components of attitude (cognitive, behavioural and affective) at baseline (T0) before intervention, post 1-week (T1), and post 5 months (T2) after intervention. Data was analysed using SPSS with the 3 components of attitude being the main variables. Data was analysed based on mixed method model and one-way ANOVA analysis. The results indicate that the disability awareness program ‘Let’s Include!’ was successful in enhancing overall positive attitudes of students towards peers with physical disabilities from baseline to T2 (P-value<0.05), (difference= 2.16). While the cognitive attitude results scored the lowest at T0, it also had the highest significant change at T2 with 1.80 units more than T0. Affective and behavioural attitude responses did not display any significant change over the 5-month period. Gender played an important role on the results, with girls consistently displaying more positive attitudes towards SWPD than boys. The final variable was that of previous exposure to physical disability. Those with previous exposure scored better at the T0, but the non-exposed group benefitted the most from the intervention by scoring the most significant change at 2.15 units more than baseline. The results of this study can help set the stepping stones for future studies on peer attitude and acceptance. It could also be used to incorporate disability awareness into a carefully designed school curriculum by targeting the areas more resistant to change, such as behavioural attitude.
short-term disability, awareness campaign, school learners, physical disabilities, United Arab Emirates (UAE), behavioural attitude