Social Media in the Lives of Youth with Disabilities in Higher Education in Kenya: Agency, Inclusion and Aspirations

Gathoni, Alice (2019). Social Media in the Lives of Youth with Disabilities in Higher Education in Kenya: Agency, Inclusion and Aspirations. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

Following the 2018 Global Disability Summit in London and the call to ensure inclusive and equitable education for all, as prescribed in goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this study is timely and significant. It explores the lived experiences of social media usage by youth with disabilities in Higher Education in Kenya. Located within the wider social justice context and responses to disability within the Kenyan education system, the study uses Sen's capability approach to understand what youth with disabilities value about their activities on social media and how this relates to their social and academic participation in Higher Education and aspirations in adulthood.

The study worked with seven youth with disabilities from three Universities in Nairobi. Using qualitative and participatory methods, the study argues that the capability approach enables a deep understanding of the different ways that these youth use and experience social media. In particular, it highlights that social media provides a significant space for youth with disabilities to develop their agency, which they then use to shift some offline social barriers so that they are able to pursue valued goals which have previously been inaccessible because of their individual conditions being restricted by the prevailing socially constructed barriers. Hence, these youth are seen to transform the inclusion space as they enter on their own terms without waiting to be included by society, as is often the norm. This is crucial for enhancing their voice and increasing their visibility in offline spaces within HE and, consequently, for their meaningful participation in life in adulthood. The study concludes by suggesting grounds for re-thinking policy orientations on the inclusion of youth with disabilities within the education system.

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