Abstract: This qualitative study examined the participatory experiences of people with an intellectual disability as members of government disability advisory bodies in Australia. These forums are one of the strategies adopted by governments to enable people with an intellectual disability to participate in the formulation of social policy. Such opportunities have arisen from progressive policy that frames people with an intellectual disability as full citizens with equal rights to inclusion and participation in society. Little research has considered how people with an intellectual disability experience the participatory opportunities that have grown from this recognition of their rights. This reflects the more traditional focus on their status and participation as consumers and service users. The central question of this study is how people with an intellectual disability experience participation in government advisory bodies, and how such forums can be inclusive and meaningful.This study positions people with an intellectual disability as the experts about their own experiences by relying primarily on their first person accounts of their experiences. Ethnographic and case study methods were employed including in-depth interviews with the central participants, document analysis, observation of the work of the advisory bodies and interviews with others involved in advisory bodies Analysis led to the development of a typology of participation that describes the political and personal orientations people have to participation. The study found that structures and the processes used by advisory bodies can mediate people's experiences: however more significantly, the experiences of people with intellectual disability are shaped by their perception of how they are regarded by others.Central to this is the efficacy of support based on the development of collegiate relationships, similar to the notion of civic friendship described by Reinders (2002), rather than support that is solely focussed on tangible accommodations. The study concludes that citizen participation bodies have not fully recognised the personal and political potential of members with an intellectual disability. It presents evidence that people with an intellectual disability are capable of this form of participation, can provide legitimate and informed perspectives on policy and can engage meaningfully, given full recognition of their capacity to participate as well as structures and processes that enable this.
Thesis (Ph.D.) - La Trobe University, 2008.
Originally part of the Australasian Digital Theses (ADT) database.
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment for the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the School of Social Work and Social Policy], Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
This thesis contained third party copyright material which has been removed. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis.