Disability and Education

There are 93 to 150 million children (ages 0-14) living with disabilities in the world today. It is estimated that only 2 to 3 % of children with disabilities in developing countries attend school. Even very mild learning difficulties may prevent school enrolment and attendance.  Especially girls with disabilities are often left behind.

Negative attitudes are the biggest barrier to education for persons with disabilities. The abilities of a child with a disability are not recognized, so educating a child with a disability is not considered worthwhile. Physical inaccessibility of school buildings is often a barrier to children with physical disabilities. Furthermore, especially deaf children, children with visual impairment and children with intellectual disabilities would need a teacher with special skills to adjust the teaching to the special needs of the children. Often, teachers are unqualified and do not have the skills or material to adjust the teaching methods.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities obligates member states to consider the special educational needs of persons with disabilities. Member states must ensure that teachers have skills in alternative education techniques and access to adjustive teaching devices. Deaf children should receive education in sign language. All this requires providing training and additional training to teachers, including teachers with disabilities, at all levels of education.

Several disability organizations in developing countries have carried out important information and advocacy work to promote right to education of children with disabilities.  Parents, communities and authorities responsible for education need more information on the rights of children with disabilities. The goal is to create a school environment that caters for every child’s needs and makes learning possible for all.

Persons with disabilities should also be encouraged to study to become teachers. Teachers with disabilities can promote educational opportunities for persons with disabilities by their own example.

Photo: Ethiopian children studying in an inclusive class. Photo: Juha Valta