A Comparative Cultural Analysis of Student Disability Services: A Case Study of Universities in the United States and Hong Kong

By David James Thomas and Dennis Edward Gregory.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

With the move toward mass higher education in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the higher education system will need to reexamine how it is meeting the needs of students with disabilities. There are numerous physical, cultural, and social barriers which bar full participation and inclusion. With increasing rates of long-term disability due to decreases in communicable disease, improved medical technology, and improved child mortality, it is now more important than ever to acknowledge and address the needs of students with disabilities as they enter post-secondary education in the Hong Kong SAR. Problems of intercultural communication are often hard to overcome when addressing issues with such deeply rooted cultural attitudes as those toward disability. The understanding of a good school in the context of Hong Kong and traditional Chinese culture is that a good school is one where its students perform at a high level of achievement, is well ordered, and the students are well behaved. Providing accommodations on an individual level, as in the American model, is seen as a departure from the ideal because energy is being directed to the provision of accommodations instead of the educational program. Because of this understanding, learning support services are seen as being negative. However, the reality of poorly performing students, whether because of disability or another reason, has its effects on the performance of a good school. The expansion of the Western model of higher education to Asia and the Pacific presents specific problems in the accommodation of students with disabilities that have not been presented in other cultural contexts. By examining features of the two cultures and their attitudes toward persons with disabilities, students and institutions in both countries benefit.

Keywords: Disability Student Services, Comparative Higher Education, Hong Kong, Cultural Attitudes

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.63-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 227.966KB).

Dr. David James Thomas

Educational Accessibility Advisor, Office of Educational Accessibility, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Mr. Thomas serves as the Educational Accessibility Advisor and ADA Coordinator at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he also holds an appointment as Lecturer of English. He is a doctoral candidate in higher education in the Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and also holds degrees in Applied Linguistics and Dramaturgy.

Dr. Dennis Edward Gregory

Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor, Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Dennis Edward Gregory is an associate professor of Higher Education at Old Dominion University (VA) and has served in this role since 2000. He has served in many student affairs leadership roles including as a senior student affairs officer and Director of Residence Life and Housing. He has authored or co-authored over 50 publications including book chapters, articles and book reviews in national refereed journals and a book on Greek life. He has also presented nearly 100 speeches and presentations on a wide variety of topics including topics related to study abroad, enrollment management and other comparative education topics, and has served as a keynote speaker on the local, state and national levels. He is a charter member and past president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA), as well as a charter member of the International Association of Student Affairs and Services (IASAS) and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Counselling and Development in Higher Education, Southern Africa. He has traveled widely abroad and annually teaches a course entitled Comparative Higher Education Systems which includes a study abroad element. He holds a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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