Research questions and methodology
In line with the objectives of the volume as a whole, this chapter answers three interconnected research questions. In the first instance, it explores what the main legal documents are at the international and European levels that support an inclusive approach to education. Secondly, it reflects on which documents exist at the international and European levels that provide a policy framework to enable an understanding of recent developments pertaining to the use of ICT, and AT in particular, in educational settings. Thirdly, the chapter addresses the question as to whether the documents and instruments examined throughout the chapter can provide useful insights that can contribute to developing a framework for action on AT in educational settings.
This chapter is informed by doctrinal legal methodology, in that it aims to provide ‘a critical conceptual analysis of all relevant [legal instruments] to reveal a statement of the law relevant to the matter under investigation’ (Hutchinson, 2014, p. 584). It has been affirmed that:
doctrinal research, at its best, involves rigorous analysis and creative synthesis, the making of connections between seemingly disparate doctrinalstrands, and the challenge of extracting general principles from an inchoate mass of primary materials.
(Council of Australian Law Deans, 2005, p. 3)
The legal analysis conducted in this chapter is based on primary legal sources as well as on legal and socio-legal scholarship, and disability studies scholarship. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties ( VCLT) is drawn on in Section 2 of the chapter to enable an interpretation of the relevant provisions of the CRPD. Articles 31 and 32 VCLT posit that international treaties can be interpreted using four methods of interpretation, namely by: drawing on the text of the treaty itself (textual interpretation); interpreting the text in its overall context, including the Preamble, general principles, and obligations of the UN Convention, as well as the General Comments of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) (contextual interpretation); aligning the text of the UN Convention with the object and purpose of the CRPD as a whole (teleological interpretation); and drawing on the drafting history, or travaux préparatoires, of the CRPD (historical interpretation).
This chapter also draws upon the multifaceted literature that investigates the environmental and social barriers faced by persons with disabilities, the role of AT in overcoming those barriers (inter alia, MacLachlan et al., 2018), and the wide-ranging scholarship on inclusive education (among many others, Ainscow, 1999; ARACY, 2013; Caldin, 2013; Corbett, 2001; Pitt & Curtin, 2004; Slee, 2001). The selection of sources in Section 7 is rooted in desk-based research and draws from relevant reports of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASNIE), as well as scholarly work.
Finally, it is important to note that the language used in this chapter is informed by international and European legal scholarship (de Beco et al., 2019). While aimed at an interdisciplinary readership, legal rigour is ensured. In that connection, ‘hard law’ denotes binding legal obligations contained in legislation. The general term ‘soft law’ is used to identify documents or instruments that do not have the binding force of law, but which are nonetheless not devoid of legal character. The term ‘policy documents’ is used less frequently as a synonym of soft law.