Exploring the Nature of Oppression as Experienced by People with Learning Disabilities

  • Denford Zvinei Jeyacheya

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Aim: The principal aim of this qualitative research study is to gain a clearer understanding of oppression as experienced by People with Learning Disabilities (PWLD). In particular, this study investigated: 1) the nature of oppression - the typical kinds of oppression PWLD face during the course of their everyday lives; 2) the causes of their oppressive experiences: 3) the impact these oppressive experiences can have on their quality of life; and 4) their reaction - the strategies PWLD employ to prevent further oppression.

    Rationale: Despite policies of deinstitutionalisation since the 1980s, many PWLD have not found social integration easy and continue to endure oppressive experiences in community-based settings. The nature/extent of this social problem has often been overlooked by researchers and practitioners. Methods: This research was conducted using interpretive phenomenology as a methodology; an approach which influenced the study’s design, method of data collection and strategy for analysing the rich qualitative findings. Semi-structured interviews were carried out across two sample populations; a group of PWLD (N=11) and a group of community-based practitioners/carers (N=11). The participants were selected through purposive sampling and the qualitative data was analysed using a specific Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) process.

    Findings: PWLD remain a deeply oppressed social group. Respondents reported experiencing multiple forms of oppression, which seem to interact in complex ways and be present throughout the course of their lives. The two key super-ordinate themes (most dominant forms of oppression experienced by PWLD) emerging from the process of IPA appear to be: 1) The life-long effects of marginalisation (social exclusion, powerlessness and existing as a socio-economic underclass) and 2) Multiple forms of victimisation (coping with exploitation, intimidation and abuse, both overt and subtle, from the public, family members and at times practitioners). Respondents believe that the underlying cause of their oppressive experiences is society’s negative perception. Negative attitudes and beliefs arise from oppressive social forces such as: the use of diagnostic labels, segregated special needs education and limited opportunities for employment. These are experiences which respondents assert often do little more than spoil their social identity as human beings.

    Conclusion: The findings confirm that PWLD living in the community continue to encounter negative social experiences which are pervasive. This research attempts to draw together and make sense of these experiences in terms of the concept of oppression. Through gaining a clearer understanding of the marginalised and victimised status of PWLD policy makers will be more informed about how to respond to their social and economic needs, and in turn help alleviate their experiences of oppression.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorAnthony Colombo (Supervisor)


    • Learning Disabilities
    • Intellectual Disabilities
    • Mental Retardation
    • Definition
    • Concept
    • Perspectives
    • Prevalence
    • Classification
    • Oppression
    • Suppression
    • Maltreatment
    • Domination
    • Injustice
    • Marginalisation
    • Social exclusion
    • Exclusion
    • Social
    • Economic
    • Employment
    • Underclass
    • Victimisation
    • Hate Crime
    • Exploitation
    • Bullying
    • Harassment
    • Abuse

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