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Exploring Conceptualisations of Disability: A Talanoa approach to Understanding Cultural Frameworks of Disability in Samoa


Catherine Picton ,

Central Queensland University, AU
About Catherine

Catherine Picton is a doctoral student at CQUniversity, Queensland, Australia.  She has extensive teaching experience in Samoa. Catherine's research interests include disability in the Pacific, and cultural development.

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Mike Horsley,

Learning Teaching Education Research Centre, Central Queensland University, AU
About Mike

Prof. Mike Horsley is the former Director of the Learning Teaching Education Research Centre at Central Queensland University and Head of Campus at Noosa. He is the current President of the International Association for Research on Textbooks and Educational Media (IARTEM) and lead editor of the IARETM eJournal, a peer reviewed journal disseminating research on textbooks, teaching and learning materials in education and educational media. He has advised many international governments on textbook policy and is currently publishing books on digital textbooks and the use of eye tracking methodologies in learning and educational research.

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Bruce Allen Knight

Central Queensland University, AU
About Bruce Allen

Dr Bruce Allen Knight is Professor of Education at Central Queensland University. He has extensive teaching experience in primary and special education and University settings. His research interests are in the inclusion of students with special needs, catering for students with literacy learning difficulties, learning design and pedagogy. He has more than 200 publications and succeeded in attaining large research grants worth more than AUD$5 million from such granting bodies as the Australian Research Council. In 2006 he was honoured with Fellowship of the International Academy of Research in Learning Disabilities.

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Purpose: The concepts of disability are explored from a Samoan cultural frame. The impact of disability conceptualisations on identity development and cultural inclusion was assessed through the Samoan language. The study also evaluated the extent of endorsement of global policy initiatives at a local level.

Methods: Through facilitating a Talanoa approach, which is a rich cultural tradition of sharing knowledge, space emerged for dialogue around the lived experiences of members of the disability community in Samoa.

Results: Incongruous conceptualisations of disability were identified as a contributing factor in the persistence of stigmatising attitudes and beliefs. Borrowing concepts and terms from moral, medical, and social disability models, this disparity of conceptualisation is reflected in Samoan disability terminology. It was also found that while global policy initiatives are generally politically embraced, they engage more effectively with the community when they are underpinned by Samoan cultural ontologies.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that multiple ideologies regarding rights, capabilities and experiences, challenge the development of identity, self-worth, and inclusion.  There is significant value in merging cultural concepts with a social disability model framework. It is important to future development that people with disability can express a sense of cultural identity without risking the right to inclusion and equality.

How to Cite: Picton, C., Horsley, M. and Knight, B.A., 2016. Exploring Conceptualisations of Disability: A Talanoa approach to Understanding Cultural Frameworks of Disability in Samoa. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 27(1), pp.17–32. DOI:
Published on 07 Jun 2016.


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