Receiving a quality education is vital to sustainable development. As Sen (1999) states, education is a gateway that improves quality of life while opening up economic, political, and social opportunities. However, persons with disabilities have historically been excluded from educational opportunities. Therefore, disability-inclusive education has been designed to remedy that imbalance by ensuring that all people are being provided the educational opportunities and skills they need to participate in social and economic development. Article 24 of the CRPD recognizes the right to education for persons with disabilities and requires states to ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from the education system. Moreover, Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Looking specifically at its targets that focus on inclusivity, SDG 4 works toward ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for persons with disabilities, as well as building and upgrading facilities that are disability-inclusive to create better learning environments.
My capstone project focuses specifically on disability-inclusive education in Malaysia. In Malaysia, education is viewed as a key instrument in transforming the country into a knowledge-based economy that can compete with a globalized world, as well as promoting harmony and unity for its uniquely diverse society. In its national education policy, better known as the Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the Malaysian government aims to provide equal access to education and create more inclusive environments for persons with disabilities. However, the implementation of this policy is challenging due to negative public perceptions of disability in Malaysia. The Malaysian Information Network on Disabilities has asserted that among policy makers and the public there is a lack of awareness on the rights and needs of persons with disabilities. The general public still continues to believe that children with disabilities are often kept out of the public and are an embarrassment and burden to their families. Similarly, teachers hold common beliefs that students with disabilities would be best educated in separated classrooms. These challenges to inclusive education affect many countries around the world, but significantly impact the success of disability-inclusive education in Malaysia. Despite this, education can be utilized to transform cultural and social stigmas of disability within Malaysian society.
As discussed in this week’s seminar, inclusive technologies can help positively transform societies like Malaysia. Firstly, they can help individualize learning for students with disabilities. Moreover, they can connect educators with one another to develop teacher’s professional development and to share resources to positively improve disability-inclusive education. Ultimately, inclusive education is paramount to sustainable development practices, and best facilitated through the use of inclusive ICTs.