The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Development and Initial Validation of the Attitudes Toward Disabilities in Social Work (ADSW) Scale

Thursday, January 17, 2013: 3:30 PM
Executive Center 2B (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Leah Powell Cheatham, JD, MSW, Doctoral student, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Neil Abell, Ph D, Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Hyejin Kim, MA, Doctoral Student, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Purpose: Disability scholars have recently highlighted social work professional organization’s lagging pace in adopting disability advocacy within diversity agenda (Mackelprang, 2010) and some have questioned the adequacy of disability content within accredited social work curricula (Hallahan, 2010; Laws, Parish, Scheyett, & Egan, 2010; Leslie, 2008; Meinert, 2010; Stainton, Chenoweth, & Bigby, 2010). Amidst these growing concerns, a measure to assess attitudes of social workers toward disability and disability-related issues is needed. The current study details the development and validation of the Attitudes toward Disabilities in Social Work (ADSW) scale, a multi-dimensional measure of social workers’ attitudes toward disability as they relate to professional roles. Disability is defined consistent with federal legislation (ADA Amendments Act of 2008), and attitudes are understood to be composed of cognitions, feelings, and practices (Triandis, Adamopoulos, & Brinberg, 1984).

Methods:A purposive sample of social work students (in-person and online) enrolled in classes within a large, Southeastern university was accessed through in-person classroom visits as well as online survey administration. The pool of items administered to students included 44 newly developed items, 12 demographic questions, and two standardized instruments, The Multidimensional Attitudes toward Disabilities Scale (Findler, Vilchinsky, &  Werner, 2007) and Rosenberg’s Self-esteem Scale (1989), so as to test construct validity. Content validation was assessed through an expert panel review. Statistical tests included reliability analyses (Cronbach’s alpha), confirmatory factor analyses (using structural equation modelling) and correlational analyses (comparing the newly developed instrument to the hypothesized construct validation indicators).

Results: This initial study indicates that the final 27-item instrument is a reliable and valid tool to measure social work students’ attitudes toward disability. The instrument demonstrates robust reliability (Cognitions α = .714; Feelings α = .850; Practice α = .859; Stratified Global α = .922), acceptable (χ2/df ratio = 1.79; RMSEA = .061) to good model fit (CFI = .97; TLI = .97; SRMR = .057) and preliminary evidence of construct validity (eight of ten hypotheses confirmed). Correlations among subscales indicate that cognitions, feelings, and practice share 27–60% of scale score variability, therefore capturing related but distinguishable information. Additionally, the standard error of measurement (SEM) statistics for each subscale (Cognitions SEM = .317; Feelings SEM = .314; Practice SEM = .271) and for the global scale (SEM= .181) met or marginally exceeded the criterion threshold of .3 (or 5% of the possible range of scores).

Implications: The ADSW scale may be useful to both social work educators and practitioners. As the only scale assessing attitudes toward disability specifically geared toward social workers, the ADSW scale can serve as a catalyst for discussions surrounding disability issues and culturally competent practice within the classroom or workplace. The ADSW scale may also be administered as a pre- and post-test for evaluation of attitudinal changes after delivery of disability-related coursework. Further evaluation of the ADSW scale’s validity is recommended within a sample of professional social workers in order to extend the initial findings of this study.