Labeling Theory and Perceived Barriers to Learning Geography by Visually-Impaired Students




Murr, Christopher
Blanchard, Denise

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The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education


An important consideration for understanding and removing baniers to the transmission of geographic information to the visually-impaired student, is knowing how the student perceives his/herself relative to the socially constructed label of "deviant." According to "Labeling Theory," as applied to the study and understanding of disability, "deviant" refers to a physical or mental state that differs from what society considers "normal." This study investigates whether society's labeling of such students as deviant affects this population's perception of their ability to complete a course or degree in geography, a discipline generally regarded as requiring visual skills. Data were collected via internet questionnaires from a sample of 81 visuallyimpaired students attending four-year colleges and universities at which geography departments were located. Our findings suggest that the degree of perceived success of a visually-impaired student in undertaking a course, or a program of geography, is strongly associated with one's level of "disability acceptance," and with one's perceived success in completing courses and degrees in other disciplines, whether "visual," or "non-visual," as well.



geography, labeling theory, visually-impaired student, spatial learning, spatial cognition, learning geography


Murr, C. & Blanchard, D. (2004). Labeling theory and perceived barriers to learning geography by visually-impaired students. Research in Geographic Education, 6, pp. 45-60.


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