Beauchamp-Pryor, Karen (2009) From Absent to Active Voices: the participation of disabled students in higher education. In: Degrees of Independence: Providing inclusive learning in Higher Education, 16th - 17th April 2009, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK. (Unpublished)

The value of involving under represented groups in the development of policy and provision has become increasingly recognised by legislators, policy makers and practitioners. This is clearly evident within equality legislation, with the most recent disability legislation recognising that a key principle in promoting disability equality within public services is by the meaningful involvement of disabled people. This paper will pose two questions: • Why is participation so important? and • How effective is the voice of a marginalised group in practice? Findings are drawn from a doctoral study examining the experiences of disabled students studying in Welsh higher education and analysis will focus on the views of students concerning their involvement and contribution to disability policy and provision. Discussion will include the reluctance of some students to participate in consultative exercises due to a questioning of disability identity and possible stigma, together with concerns about the genuineness and effectiveness of consultation. The benefits of participation will also be explored in relation to sharing experience, providing an alternative expertise to the professional and strengthening the interests of a marginalised group.

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