Many of the shortcomings that countries are facing in providing educational opportunities to their population stems from the fact that inclusive education is being thought of as a stand alone issue, rather than a impediment to the social and economic advancement of the country as a whole. The World Report on Disability estimates that there are between 93 and 150 million school-aged children with disabilities globally, amounting to at least 10% of each every country’s population. Many of these students are excluded from educational opportunities and do not complete primary education, which was priority outlined for all nations in the Millennium Development Goals.
The Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities document published by UNESCO outlines how access to appropriate inclusive education is hindered by a multitude of barriers. The document touches on physical barriers in learning environments, such as cases when content and materials are not accessible especially when material are not available in a student’s primary language, “cognitive barriers for some learners with intellectual disabilities or specific learning problems, didactical barriers where teachers lack the skills to facilitate inclusive education; and financial barriers relating to the cost of devices with assistive technology to provide access.” There are also detrimental effects on student’s ability to achieve the necessary basic skills for long-term social, economic and digital inclusion in society. This damage then snowballs as it limits their access to further educational opportunities, as well as employment. If 93 million people be unemployed, and did not have the proper training and education necessary to work, the social and economic costs to society would be catastrophic. The active participation of students with disabilities is essential to increase their participation in all spheres of society to inform decisions with their valuable insights and contributions.
The active participation of students with disabilities in inclusive education is cost-effective in the long-term as it contributes to the elimination of discrimination, promoting wider social inclusion. The UNESCO document notes how inclusive education initiatives for students with disabilities, are also applicable to any students who are vulnerable to exclusion from any sector of education beyond those who may be identified as having learning difficulties or experiencing different forms of social disadvantage. Inclusive education policies stand to benefit not only student with disabilities, but also students excluded from classrooms on the basis on gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and language, thus highlighting their importance as a policy priority at the local, national and international level.