Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Conceptual Framework for Policy and Research Development with Indigenous People with Disabilities

Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Conceptual Framework for Policy and Research Development with Indigenous People with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract: No explicitly Indigenous (1) conceptual framework to advance research and policy development to assist Indigenous people with disabilities exists. This paper proposes a conceptual framework that brings together the strengths of both the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health and Indigenous Standpoint Theory for research and policy development regarding Indigenous people with disabilities. This framework provides six criteria that bridge the cultural interface between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, while emancipating Indigenous people with disabilities in the research and policy development process in Australian disability and Indigenous affairs.

Introduction

This paper proposes a conceptual framework for disability studies to empower Indigenous people in disability research and policy development to improve the service participation of Indigenous people. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported that the prevalence of disability was more than twice the rate reported for the non-Indigenous population (AIHW 2008a, 2008c, 2010). Among Indigenous people there are higher rates of young people caring for people with disabilities and higher rates of people with intellectual and psychological disabilities involved in the criminal justice system (AIHW 2008a, 2008c, 2010; Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision 2009). AIHW (2008b) reported that despite slight improvements in access rates for some services and supports for people with disabilities, the participation rates of Indigenous people in disability services were lower than the reported prevalence of disability.

A conceptual framework is typically used to situate the preferred approach for undertaking an enquiry, and this approach is underpinned by specific theories, viewpoints or ideas to explain a particular social issue or phenomena. The current gap between the prevalence of disability and the low participation of Indigenous community members in disability services raises concerns about the effectiveness of dominant approaches to understanding and addressing this gap. In the disability studies field, researchers, government agencies and 'specialists' have attempted to identify a specifically 'Indigenous' definition of 'impairment', 'disability' and 'handicap' ever since the nineteenth century. Western definitions of handicap, impairment and disability have also been imposed upon Indigenous communities for more than a century (Denzin and Lincoln 2008). This paper explores the historical and theoretical foundations of current dominant conceptual frameworks in Australian disability research that have been developed in accordance with Western knowledge systems and their epistemologies. This paper also explores the impact of Eurocentric methodological fundamentalism in understanding disability and the needs of people of Indigenous background with disabilities (Meekosha 2004, 2011; Moreton-Robinson 2004).

The paper goes on to examine the use of Indigenous Standpoint Theory (IST) (Foley 2006; Nakata 2007) as an approach to the decolonisation of the production of knowledge in this area. IST is explored as an alternative and complementary conceptual framework for understanding and addressing the gap between the high proportion of Indigenous people who have a disability and the low participation in disability services. First, the paper identifies how conceptual frameworks of disability influence policy and practice in this area.

In 2001 the World Health Organization (WHO) developed the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), which attempted to merge individual approaches and social approaches to disability. The ICF was developed as a conceptual framework for international policy and research regarding people with disabilities. Australian and state/territory governments have utilised the ICF for data collection, research and policy development. …

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