Education plays an incredibly vital role in social and economic development. Human capital, one of the key components of economic growth, is created and strengthened through education and provides almost endless opportunities. As movements to include persons of disability are gaining traction and popularity around the world, it is essential to look to the root of human development in education to strengthen inclusivity.
Disability-inclusive education goes beyond just bringing children and students with disabilities into the classroom, but also ensuring that they get the highest quality education that suits their needs and capabilities. Inclusive education focuses on addressing 93 to 150 million school-aged children worldwide who may have disabilities and who are vulnerable to being excluded from educational opportunities. There is a long list of disabilities children or young adults may have that may make it challenging for them to maximize their learning capability in traditional educational settings. These can be, but are not limited to, physical, mental, or emotional disabilities; many times a student can have multiple disabilities that affect each other and the quality of their education. Inclusive education ties in directly with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4 (quality education) and the CRPD Article #24 (education).
There are several local, national, and international programs that focus on providing strategies for inclusive education. These programs address the complex challenges of a student’s unique disability and the environment they are in. The Nippon Foundation, based in Japan, is an organization dedicated to establishing a supportive network between citizens, corporations, nonprofit organizations, governments, international bodies when it comes to uncovering everyone’s true potential. Their Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) was created as a response to the little to no support services available for disabled students in the ASEAN region trying to pursue higher education. The IDPP has been successful in creating the world’s first virtual master’s degree program in disability policy. Launched in 2011, the Master’s of International Affairs in Comparative and International Disability Policy (CIPD) with American University’s School of International Affairs. This online learning opportunity was a pioneered and strengthened the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in inclusive education.
The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict), produced the “Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities” in 2014. This publication focuses on how to incorporate ICTs in the UNs CRPD Articles 9 (Accessibility), 21 (Freedom of Expression, Opinion, and Access to Information), and 24 (Inclusive Education). The main objective of this publication was to provide a model policy template to assist UNESCO Member States in initiating and implementing the use of ICTs in inclusive education. The policy model is organized in a clear format that touches on the background of ICTs in education policy, national mandates as requirements of the UNCRPD, policy objectives, policy actions linked to those objectives, development of a national implementation strategy, and financial budgeting to for implementation and evaluation. This framework reviews the roles of several actors ranging from high-level political leaders (HLPLs) to civil society groups (especially those representing the disabled community) to local education providers. The collaboration of all local, national, and international actors involved and affected by the role of education is essential for effective and truly inclusive education.