The purpose of this study is to explore pre-service teachers' attitudes towards individuals with disabilities as a predictor for including them in the regular classroom. Before the implementation of any special education programs for students with disabilities within the public schools, it is important to determine the attitudes of educators and administrators towards individuals with disabilities, The study uses a demographic survey and the Attitudes Towards Disabled Persons (ATDP) scale to assess the attitudes of Arab preservice educators towards persons with disabilities.
The results indicated that the overall attitudes of educators towards persons with disabilities were negative.
The passage of the Handicapped Law of 1993 in Jordan was the first step towards guarantying the rights of persons with disabilities. The law emphasized that individuals with disabilities are entitled to equal education, training, work, and care (Ministry of Education, 1998). In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) however, until now there are no Laws that are geared specifically towards persons with disabilities. Yet, in the UAE constitution there are several sections that address the needs of persons with disabilities. Section 16, for example emphasized the issue of rehabilitating and caring for persons with disabilities. Section 25 also dictates that all individuals are equal. In addition the Law of the Ministry of Work calls for the establishment of centers and institutions for persons with disabilities (United Arab Emirates, 1993; Alsharegah Government, 1994).
Legislation can enforce the provisions of educational opportunities in terms of physical access, but it is difficult to enforce acceptance. Therefore, much attention should be given to the attitudinal barriers that restrict students from having full access to the educational system (Jones, 1984).
Attitudes of persons with disabilities and its importance has been long recognized (Antonak, 1980). The literature has revealed that one of the most important predictors of successful integrating of students with disabilities in the regular classroom is the attitudes of general education teachers (Coates, 1989; Semmel, Abernathy, Butera, &Lesar, 191; Bacon & Schultz, 1991). Results of studies by Barton (1992) and Wilczenski (1993) indicated that attitudes held by both regular and special educators towards students with disabilities determine the success or the failure of inclusion. If educators hold a positive attitude towards persons with disabilities this allows and encourages the establishment of policies that guaranties the students rights to be educated in regular classrooms, whereas negative attitude towards persons with disabilities in all aspects limits their opportunities to be integrated in regular classrooms (Altman, 1981; Jamieson, 1984). Most of the studies conducted on the integration of students with disabilities in regular education classrooms found that teachers have negative attitudes (D'Alonzo & Ledon, 1992).
Because attitudes are essential in the success of educating students with disabilities in regular education classrooms, pre-service programs should emphasize and concentrate on enhancing teachers attitudes towards inclusion (Kauffmann & Hallahan, 1981; Turnbull & Schultz, 1979). However, some researchers (e.g., Murphy, 1996; Conte, 1994; and Wilczenski, 1992) believe that the preparation programs for regular classroom teachers for inclusion are ineffective at both the pre-service level and the in-service level.
Attitudes and the ability to teach students with disabilities in regular classrooms is a learned process and is greatly influenced by the amount of contact teachers have with persons with disabilities (Smith, Price and Marsh, 1986). According to Shoho, Katims, and Wilks (1997), if teachers gain more knowledge about including students with disabilities and how their learning needs can be addressed, they may have less negative attitudes about inclusion. …