Wendy E. Parmet, Debra R. Kaufman, Ralf W. Schlosser
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Law, Policy and Society
legal studies, augmentative, consciousness, legality, narrative
Law and Society
This exploratory study examined parents' experiences with the law as they obtained funding for speech generating devices for their communicatively disabled children, either through public health insurance, private health insurance or a public school. The study explored how parents engaged with the law and how their experiences and perceptions about the law compared to the formal law. This research was based on sociolegal theory, particularly the concept of legal consciousness, which examines how people think and act in relation to the law as a consequence of social interactions, and analyzes how law in action compares with the formal law. Sociolegal theory broadens the definition of law to include "the meanings, sources of authority, and cultural practices" (Ewick and Silbey, 1998, p.22) as well as the formal law.
Similar to other sociolegal research, this study collected personal narratives of law using grounded theory methods to identify themes within those narratives. The narratives revealed that while parents expressed varieties of legal consciousness, there was one overarching theme: the law provided a framework for parents to envision rights, discuss rights and claim rights. While few parents invoked formal legal mechanisms to solve grievances, the law, its language and its intent were constantly negotiated in their everyday lives as they advocated for their children. Each parent persistently advocated for their children by interacting with a variety of people and most parents consistently interacted with other parents on multiple levels. These experiences shaped their perceptions about the law and influenced some very important decisions that parents made. Based on interactions with people, parents made decisions about whether to access their health insurance or the public school for funding speech generating devices, seek an independent assessment, ask the public school to pay for an independent assessment, obtain private therapy through health insurance, apply for benefits through a public health insurance program, meet with teachers to discuss their child's Individualized Education Program, or invoke the formal law. Therefore, the law created a rights consciousness among parents which empowered them to acknowledge and validate the notion of rights and entitlements.
Denise J. Frankoff
Frankoff, Denise J., "Exploring legal consciousness: experiences of families seeking funding for assistive technologies for children with disabilities" (2010). Law, Policy, and Society Dissertations. Paper 17. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20000265
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