Mechanisms of adaptive preferences and social inclusion of people with a disability in urban neighborhoods

Brummel, Annica (1); Jansen, Erik (2) (2016). 'Mechanisms of adaptive preferences and social inclusion of people with a disability in urban neighborhoods' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

In western European societies changing social policies are supposedly person-centered, but it can be questioned whether they truly support human development, as these policy changes often also involve austerity measures. This particularly affects people with a disability. Following a tradition of deinstitutionalization, people with disabilities often live within the community, but they are still not fully accepted as equal citizens and often face stigma, discrimination, and rejection (Cobigo and Hall 2009; Hall 2009). Not being accepted as full citizens, could have major consequences for human well-being and the lives people with disabilities have reason to value. Nussbaum (2006, p. 188) argues that people with a disability are often characterized as permanently and inevitably dependent on others, labelling impediments as natural, where they are basically social. For people with a disability to be respected as equal citizens, with realistic choices and functioning opportunities, a focus on impediments from a social perspective requires a redesign of public space. Nussbaum also notes that special attention is needed for the problem of adaptive preferences (2006, p.189). These adaptive preferences, which typically validate the status quo, could stimulate or maintain inequality for people with disabilities and present barriers for social inclusion. In this paper we contribute to insights about these adaptive preferences, with analyses from an empirical study on social inclusion of people with a disability in an urban neighborhood in the Netherlands.
Social inclusion in the neighborhood
Nussbaum (2006) explores the relation of CA and people with disabilities in an example regarding education. However, other domains are more difficult to influence, e.g. leisure time or daily life in the community, although it is in these particular domains where local governments expect support from social networks and family. In the CA the importance of social networks is widely acknowledged, as for instance by characterizing affiliation as an architectonic capability (Nussbaum, 2011, p. 39). As affiliations mostly emerge outside the reach of institutions, it is important to learn more about barriers and strengths that influence forming and maintaining human relations.
In two previous studies, which we presented at previous HDCA conferences in Athens (2014) and Washington (2015), we focused on these barriers and strengths from an individual perspective and a contextual perspective. Although most individual respondents did not experience any form of stigma on neighborhood level, we did find examples of intolerance and exclusion. We also found differences on the level of perception or branding of neighborhoods. Based on the results from these previous studies, which will be published in a forthcoming PHD thesis, more insight is required on the role of adaptive preferences in the process of social inclusion. Therefore our research question is formulated as follows: which mechanisms of adaptive preferences of people with a disability influence the process of social inclusion in neighborhoods?
Data were gathered for a qualitative case study in three different neighborhoods in the mid-size urban town of Nijmegen in the Netherlands (<200.000 inhabitants). In total 34 individual in-depth interviews were conducted with citizens with mental health problems and intellectual and developmental disabilities and we mapped their ego networks as well. Further, 27 volunteers, who were active in 15 community-based small groups in the neighborhoods were interviewed and 14 participatory observations were made, mostly during activities of the community-based small groups that were interviewed. Finally we organized 3 focus groups, in which 12 respondents participated. During the focus groups we used the methods of q-sort and vignettes. The methods delivered a rich and diverse dataset for the analyses. We analyzed these data using a conceptual framework from Robeyns (2005), in which we focus on the personal, social and environmental conversion factors, as well as the preference formation mechanisms.
The presentation will focus on attitudes which might influence opportunities for social inclusion, both from the perspective of people with a disability as well as from the perspective of volunteers in community-based small-groups. Based on the analyses we found different attitudes both of people with a disability as well as volunteers of community-based small groups.
Therefore, the notions put forward contribute to the operationalization of the CA on the topic of human relations in general and to the discussion of the place of people with a disability in society and within the CA in specific. The focus on community-based small groups in this study contributes to a better understanding on the importance of groups for human capabilities and conversion processes, as emphasized by Robeyns (2005).

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