The message on inclusive education is simple: Every learner matters – and matters equally.
This was the shared spirit when experts from 12 African countries came together in Nairobi, Kenya in late October for the ‘Technical Learning Session on Inclusive Education in Africa’ to share knowledge, ideas, challenges, and priorities toward inclusive education.
The ultimate barrier to education is no schooling at all. Inclusion of children with disabilities can result in significant gains to national economies helping break the cycle of poverty.
An ever-growing urban population with overflowing and at times chaotic vehicular traffic can make life difficult even for the most well-abled pedestrian.
The challenges become higher for a person with a disability.
‘How can I go out of my home?’ asks Tajkia Mariam Jahan, a wheelchair user from Dhaka, who was confined to her home for seven years due to the road environment.
The city roads are unwelcoming not only for people in a wheelchair like her but also for persons with all types of disabilities.
Hawa Aktar, a woman with hearing impairment, needs clear, visible signs and signals on road crossings and from vehicles. And Bashir Uddin Molla, a student with visual impairment, needs sounds and guidance when she is walking.
None of these facilities are available to people with disabilities living in Dhaka.
Dwifina loves art. Every day she looks forward to making her thread canvasses. Her only wish is that she had more time to spend on them. Being paralyzed, she spends a significant amount of time on mundane activities like getting ready for school and sorting out school supplies and books. She needs to ask friends to assist her in using the bathroom in school, as it lacks the design features for her to use it independently. Between homework and these extended activities of daily living, Dwifina finds little time for her true passion.
There are about a billion people with physical, cognitive, or psychological disabilities in the world, who struggle to access basic services required to perform daily functions. Unfortunately, most of these barriers to access are socially constructed.
“What’s wrong with this picture?” Louisa Gosling of WaterAid asked the participants at her training on Disability-inclusive Water Operations at the World Bank Water Week in March 2017. She pointed to a photo of a woman standing on the wall of a well. It was round and high, the ground around it muddy, and there was no lifting mechanism in sight.
More pictures followed… latrines and water sources with steep steps, narrow doorways, unstable construction without handles or rails. The more pictures we saw, the clearer it became what was wrong - all the facilities shown were inaccessible and dangerous, quite likely impossible to use for many people.
Over a billion people—about 15% of the world’s population—have disabilities. Almost 80% of them live in the developing world, which is undergoing rapid urbanization.
While urbanization brings people closer to new economic and sociocultural opportunities, , such as inaccessible buildings and public spaces, limited transportation options, inaccessible housing, and barriers in using technology-enabled virtual environments.
These urban constraints have a significant impact on those living with disabilities in terms of mobility, ability to engage in education and skills development, employability and income generation, and larger social and political participation.
Therefore, which includes persons with disabilities. And there is no better time than now to make that happen.
- Sustainable Communities
- smart cities
- participatory decision-making
- universal accessibility
- inclusive cities
- International Day of Persons with Disabilities
- New Urban Agenda
- Habitat III
- Sustainable Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Urban Development
- Social Development
A deaf rapper?
When Marko Vuoriheimo told his friends and family that he wanted to pursue a career in music he was met with everything from raised eyebrows to outright ridicule. “My teachers, relatives and some of my friends … didn’t really believe in my career at all,” said the Finnish native, whose stage name is Signmark. “But I thought, I’ll still get there and I want to … give an opportunity for this dream of mine.”
When I first visited the college town of Madison, Wisconsin (USA) in 2000, what first stood out wasn’t its beautiful university campus or its famous brat and beer combo. What caught my attention was a public bus which had the equipment to lift a wheelchair. “Beep, beep, beep,” a sound would signal as the bus would lower and extend a ramp to aid people in wheelchairs to board the bus.
At that time, I had never seen anything like this bus and thought, “Wow! Why can’t we have such services back in my country?” No such buses existed in Korea where I grew up. But more than just the bus, I remembered thinking that I rarely noticed people with special needs in Korea. In hindsight, the lack of support and consideration for people with disabilities and ignorant attitudes were also reasons why people with disabilities were rarely seen in public.
Addressing needs through action
In 2014, I became the task leader for Bangladesh’s Disability and Children at Risk (DCAR) project. The difficult situation faced by persons with disabilities in the country was a reminder of the contrast I had experienced in that college town. Accessible transportation was not the only service lacking for people with disabilities. There was a lack of access to health facilities for checkups and treatment along with a short supply of therapy equipment and wheelchairs. A lack of respect towards persons with disabilities by the wider public was also a challenge. Moreover, the project was not delivering the results that it expected to achieve.
The first ever World report on disability, produced jointly by World Health Organization and the World Bank in 2011, estimates that more than a billion people in the world today experience disability. In his foreword to the report, Professor Stephen Hawking wrote: “Disability need not be an obstacle to success.”
Despite Professor Hawking’s powerful words and individual example of success with a very debilitating disability, the report acknowledges that people with disabilities have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the lack of services available to them and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives, including prejudice and stigma from society.
When it comes to intellectual disabilities, persons afflicted with these conditions are more disadvantaged in many settings than those who experience physical or sensory impairments, according to the report. Particularly, people with Down syndrome suffer great discrimination and misunderstanding from the general public. And it is not a small group. According to the World Health Organization, the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide.
In order to break stigma and barriers regarding this mental disability, an annual awareness day was established. March 21, 2016, was World Down Syndrome Day. In honor of this day, the advertisement agency Saatchi & Saatchi produced this powerful campaign on social perception of Down syndrome.
Source: Saatchi & Saatchi