An investigation into the challenges facing an integration project at a Durban secondary school.
Over the past fifteen years the integration of students with impairments from "special schools" into regular schools has been common practice in most western countries. Here in South Africa, the policy of integration is only just beginning to be formally legislated and implemented. One such integration project is currently underway in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The initiative, organised between Clare Estate School and Dr. A. D. Lazarus Secondary, began in 1992. This study investigates the experiences of nine students with physical impairments. They form a part of a group of fourteen students presently integrated into Dr. A. D. Lazarus Secondary. The experiences of the students are examined from the perspectives of the students themselves, their teachers and their parents. All the differing viewpoints were gathered through semi-structured interviews and observation. As a framework within which to analyse the findings, a social model of disability was explored. The social model advocates that people have impairments and not disabilities. A disability arises when environmental factors exacerbate the existence of an impairment. The factors which could exacerbate impairment within the school setting range from physical inaccessibility to overdependency in an environment designed solely for able-bodied people. An environmental obstacle that hinders a person with an impairment is referred to as a 'disabling barrier.' The study revealed that unpreparedness for integration can result in many 'disabling-barriers' within the school context. These obstacles create hindrances not just for the students with impairments but for all students, teachers and parents. The researcher identified the disabling-barriers in order to highlight the many challenges that face the school. It was hoped that by gathering information, predominantly from the perspective of students with physical impairments, one is able to evaluate the experiences from their own personal perspectives. Furthermore, both the schools involved in the project are challenged into turning the identified "disabling-barriers" into more enabling environments for students with physical impairments. Finally, looking beyond integration towards an inclusive system of education is the ultimate challenge recommended for this particular context.