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Understanding disabled students’ use of technology in a university: a social and relational perspective

Project Details

Funding partner

Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship


3rd Year (end Sept 2022)


Publications will be posted here when available.



  • Sook Yee Helena Song



Despite having accessibility guidelines and policies, digital learning resources and services remain largely inaccessible to disabled university students. Evidence shows that technology use is more than a case of having access and use. Students with different trajectories experience technology very differently. Issues and challenges, particularly among disabled university students, have been found to be complex and multi-faceted across the spectrum. The focus of past research into digital inequalities based on access alone has led to limited insights in technology use. Therefore, a socio-cultural framework is needed to enable a more critical and nuanced understanding of the uptake of digital technology among disabled university students.

Through an intensive look at a case university in Malaysia, I draw upon Bourdieu's social and relational framework to understand the “messy realities” that exist in the students’ relationship with their technologies. This case study relies on multiple sources of evidence, combining three data analysis approaches. Mapped to Bourdieu’s three-level field analysis, the analytic approaches are Foucauldian discourse analysis (FDA) of documentary and media sources, Voice-Centered Relational (VCR) method of analysis of interview data, and descriptive analysis of survey data. Collectively, these multiple perspectives allow for a broader and critical interpretations of the disabled university students’ narratives from different vantage points.


PhD findings will contribute and add on to current research on disability and digital inclusion specifically to the ASEAN region. It will inform relevant stakeholders within Malaysian universities to enact more inclusive, socially and culturally sensitive guidelines and policies in their technology related practices, particularly in supporting disabled university students. Recommendations for developing an accessible online and offline toolkit for students and instructors which includes: a simple self-audit accessibility check-list, best digital inclusive practices and guidelines related to teaching and learning (dos and don’ts), and a list of resources on specialised and generic hardware and software commonly use in the university.


An easy-read resource for this project is not currently available.

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