Globally as many as 19 million children with disabilities, a third of the entire out-of-school population, are excluded from education. In some developing countries, such as Indonesia, only 23% of children with disabilities attend primary school compared to 83% of children without disabilities. (World report 2011). Many factors contribute to the exclusion of children with disabilities, including discrimination, inaccessible school buildings, a lack of accessible transportation, and a lack of trained teachers and special education resources. Exclusion from education further perpetuates the vicious cycle of disability and poverty.
Handicap International works to change these perceptions and opens doors to schools for children and young people with disabilities through the promotion of inclusive education. The organization currently runs 31 projects in 23 countries, in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
Inclusive education means education in which all children are welcome in the same classroom and provided with high-quality instruction and the support tools needed to succeed. In practice this requires helping schools and school systems to adapt to the needs each individual child, rather than trying to “fix the child in order to fit the system.” It also involves convincing parents, teachers, and other students that children with disabilities should be accepted and allowed to attend school alongside their peers.
As our work takes an inclusive approach, it inevitably promotes education opportunities for other excluded groups, such as ethnic minorities and girls. While our inclusive education programs vary country by country, all include six main activities:
- Raising the awareness about the rights of children with disabilities among parents, teachers, students, and other community members
- Identifying children with disabilities in the community who are not attending school and referring them to other relevant services such as social care/rehabilitation services etc.
- Providing support and training to parents of children with disabilities
- Training teachers to work with children with disabilities and learners with special educational needs.
- Ensuring school buildings are accessible according to universal design standards and have learning resources for children with disabilities, such as braille books, tactile maps and other resources, and early literacy and numeracy teaching aids to help students with intellectual disabilities
- Working with schools and governments to develop inclusive education policies.