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More than just toys: toys that represent impairment, their online accessibility and diversity in Australia, and early childhood educators' perspectives towards them
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 13:02 authored by Aliza Salvador
Children's toys have been suggested to play both a passive and active role through reflecting and shaping individual attitudes towards marginalised groups in society, including people who experience disability (Ellis, 2015; Sutton-Smith, 1986, 2009; Barton & Somerville, 2012). Consequently, disability advocates are recognising and problematising the small amount oftoys that represent impairment, particularly now that efforts to include children who experience disability are increasing within education settings and beyond. Despite this, there is little empirical research on toys that represent impairment. In this study, I commit to viewing impairment from the affirmative model (Swain & French, 2000). I draw on resistance theory (Friere, 1970), and borrow elements from critical multimodal discourse analysis (van Leeuwen, 2013), in the methods and interpretations. The aims of this study were twofold: to explore the accessibility and diversity of children's toys that represent impairment within major Australian online toy stores,through content analysis; and to investigate early years educators' perspectives on the use of these toys in their practice,through the distribution of an online survey. Findings from the content analyses reveal that toys that represent impairment were limited in range, mainly supporting common disability/impairment stereotypes. This is further complicated when contrasting educational websites with non-educational websites. Findings from the survey suggest that educators regard toys that represent impairment as important and beneficial for the education of young children overall;however, educators continue to face multiple barriers impeding their ability to obtain and use such toys. These findings have implications for persons responsible for providing toys to children, and methodological implications for the critical disability studies field.