Monthly Archives: June 2009

Inclusive education means everyone

Learning Better Together is a long overdue report. Subtitled working towards inclusive education in NZ schools the report is a breath of fresh air in the so called ‘special’ education debate.

Making a strong case for including all children in our schools the report says “Inclusive education stands in contrast to ‘special’ education, where disabled children are educated in separate schools or classes, or treated very differently in the classroom to regular students.”

The report presents evidential research to show that disabled children will do better on many counts if they are included. This is not ‘mainstreaming’ or even ‘maindumping’ as I have heard it called, but it takes the next step.

Some people think that the increasing numbers of disabled students attending mainstream schools after the 1989 Education Act were the first disabled children in their local schools, but of course this isn’t true. Some of us were there more years ago than we care to think about, and we survived. We may not have been included in today’s sense, but I still think we are better off.

Of course some of us are barely literate or numerate but nonethe- less I would have hated to be sent away at five years old as were many of my contemporaries. I was sent away at thirteen, but that’s another story and another kind of institution!

When I worked in EEO a fair number of years ago I checked out all the disabled people I knew in Wellington who worked in the new improved public service. To a man and a woman they had all had the most significant part of their education in mainstream schools. I know it was a totally unscientific survey, but it supports the argument for good quality inclusive education.

I first came across Jude McArthur, who wrote the report, a few years ago when she presented her research with disabled children at an IHC education forum, I was so impressed that I asked her to speak to our Commission meeting. The voices of disabled children talking about their experience at school are telling. They show just how much work there is to do.

But of course true inclusive education is not just a slightly improved ‘special’ education. It is a whole new way of educating our children together in a learning environment which respects and values them all, and which enables them all to achieve.

If you have trouble with the link or want a hard copy or a copy of the accompanying DVD you can write to:

IHC Advocacy
PO box 4155
Wellington 6140


Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights

Hot Sandwich on a cold night

Last Friday night we went to Old St Paul’s to listen to Hot Club Sandwich on the recommendation of a friend. Malcolm McNeil was a guest and he is always good. I had thought Hot Club Sandwich would be quite jazzy because of Malcolm McNeil and they are. But I was pleasurably surprised though as I am not a fan of some kinds of really serious Jazz. They are a lot of fun and we intend to go again on July 3rd. As well as being great professional entertainers they have an appealing humorous touch. St Paul’s is a lovely venue and the concert was informal and friendly. Just the thing for a Friday night.

Bass player Terry Crayford is better known to many of us than we might think since he wrote the theme for Fair Go.

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Filed under The Arts

No policy about us without us

Last week I attended the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) conference, Policy About Us For Us. Since Australia has also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) I thought it might be useful to share some of the themes and threads.

Attention was given to monitoring, (the convention), liberation, (freedom), and capacity building in three streams. The latter simply means increasing the knowledge, skill and the use of tools by disabled people to achieve our rights.

One of the Keynotes was Tina Minkowitz. Tina was involved in the development of the CRPD from a mental health perspective. Her presentation centred on opposition to forced treatment and on supported decision making. She is a passionate advocate on both counts, and argues for law making which supports both concepts. Her arguments are compelling, but I think require a better mental health system than we have now, at least when it comes to forced treatment. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working hard to reduce forced treatment.

Supported decisionmaking also applies to people with intellectual disabilities. It seems to me to be a very sensible idea.

Other important themes which emerged were the necessity for ratification of the Optional Protocol to the CRPD and the importance of the first non disabled organisations’ (NGO) shadow report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which comments on the progress of human rights from disabled people’s perspective.

Some of the points I made in my presentation related to the formation of strong collaborative coalitions. I talked about the importance of moving away from silos and ghettos separating impairment groups, and separating non-disabled and disabled people. I also stressed the necessity to use the language of rights in everyday education. So, for “special education” simply say “education” or “education of disabled children.” For “special needs” say “needs” or “disability needs.” There is also no such thing as “special children” Our children are all special and unique.

The proceedings from the conference will eventually be published on the AFDO site.

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Filed under Disability Rights