Expressing civic rights for individuals with intellectual disabilities : social network responsibility and silences in communication
Stuart, Alexandria Kathryn
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This study explores the role of communications in the understanding of expressions of civic rights for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). One expression of the low social capital held by individuals with IDD is their low rate of participation in elections. Electors in Canada are not subject to capacity testing but individuals with IDD experience unique barriers to voting—primarily informational and attitudinal—which effectively disenfranchise what is already a vulnerable population. The study uses Situational Analysis to analyse online survey, semi-structured interview, and discursive data. The data were focused on the social networks of individuals with IDD as key facilitators of electoral participation; mapping of the social worlds and arenas revealed the positions held within those worlds. Parents/caregivers were found to be critical facilitators—and potential gatekeepers—to this participation. The study found that efforts to mitigate barriers to political participation for individuals with IDD must address the important role played by social networks—including parents and caregivers—in that participation.