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Salzburg interview: “Exclusion from the regular education system needs to be understood as an abrogation of rights”

Annual Conference in Salzburg: Inclusive teaching programmes: Let's develop it together!

 From 22 to 23 of October 2015 EASPD, in cooperation with the projects EQF meets ECVET, INVESTT and TIDE, will showcase a selection of best practices in developing inclusive teaching programmes for persons with disabilities. The event is expected to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss these best practices.


We are very happy to have Diane Richler as one of our keynote speakers. Ms Richler has served as Executive Vice President of the Canadian Association for Community Living, president of Inclusion International, chair of the International Disability Alliance, the coalition of global and regional organisations of persons with disabilities and was one of the civil society leaders in the negotiation of the UN CRPD.  Ms Richler has worked as an advocate and as a consultant to governments and multi-lateral institutions and has been an invited speaker and trainer in over 60 countries in all regions of the world. In the build up to the conference she has agreed to answer some questions for us.


Ms Richler, could you briefly describe your involvement with the rights of persons with disabilities?
I was involved in social justice causes as a student.  I studied psychology and learned about the devastating impact of institutions on the people living there.  When I began to learn more about the challenges facing people who had intellectual disabilities I realized that communities that could include them could include anyone.  I have worked mostly with organizations of people with intellectual disabilities and their families, but also with cross-disability groups and on broader human rights issues.


 In your opinion, how inclusive is the western education system? Do you find common trends across different education systems?
It’s difficult to generalize about the “western education system” because education is in flux and evolving.  Forty years ago there was little thought about including students with disabilities in regular schools.  The idea that all children were “educable” was still considered radical by many.  Now, we can find good examples of inclusion on every continent and there is a broad recognition of the goal of inclusion, even in the new Sustainable Development Goals.  The biggest obstacles are strongly entrenched special education systems and systems which stream students early into more or less academic programs.


The European inclusive education models have been particularly hit by the difficult economic situation. Do you know of any innovative funding models that could help overcome this financial gap?
The issue is not how to fund inclusion – it is not to discriminate against students with disabilities when budgets are frozen at existing levels or there are cut-backs. Also, it is not possible to fund two parallel systems – a special education system and an inclusive one.  All the resources from special education need to be redirected to the general system to make it inclusive.


In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues when it comes to inclusive education?
Exclusion from the regular system needs to be understood as an abrogation of rights.  Teachers need to be prepared to teach diverse learners and supported to do so.  Special education systems need to be eliminated and the resources invested in the regular system.

Registration and practical information on the annual conference "Inclusive teaching programmes: Let's develop it together!"