Tuesday, May 3, 2022

SDG 4 and PWDs: Ensuring Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education for all Persons with Disabilities

INTRODUCTION

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs provide a powerful framework to guide local communities, countries and the international community toward the achievement of disability-inclusive development. It pledges to leave no one behind, including people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups, and has recognized disability as a cross-cutting issue to be considered in the implementation of all of its goals.


Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as the foundation for improving people’s lives and reducing inequalities in education.


The specific targets for SDG 4 refer to the need to ensure “equal access to all levels of education and vocational training” for persons with disabilities and building and upgrading education facilities that are disability sensitive and that provide “inclusive and effective learning environments for all.”


Education is a fundamental human right and an essential condition for individual development and full and effective participation in society. However, too many persons with disabilities continue to be denied this fundamental right due to numerous barriers and obstacles to accessible education, including prejudice and discrimination against those with disabilities, the lack of qualified teachers to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities as well as inaccessible schools and educational materials. Lack of disaggregated data and research also impede the development of effective policies and programmes to promote inclusive education. 


Available evidence from various empirical studies show that persons with disabilities are less likely to attend school, less likely to complete primary or secondary education, and less likely to be literate. Despite the fact that education is fundamental for social inclusion and participation in the labour market and plays a critical role in the acquisition of skills and knowledge. 


Therefore, this article presents the international normative frameworks on disability and education and addresses the challenges persons with disabilities face in accessing education on the basis of available evidence. It also discusses current practices in countries regarding access to education of persons with disabilities and presents examples of national policies and best practices as well as recommendations to advance inclusive education. 


PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (PWDs)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of 2007 describes 'Disability' as an “evolving concept” and says that “persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.


Disability is an outcome of an interaction between health conditions (such as cerebral palsy, depression or lung disease), and environmental factors (such as inaccessible transportation, limited social support or air pollution).


Disability is a matter of degree, because mental and physical impairments range in severity, from minor to severe. The experience of disability over the life-course is a universal human experience since everyone will experience some limitation in bodily or mental function at some point.


Disability is diverse not only in extent but also in kind. There are people who live with severe sensory, mobility, communication or cognitive impairments (e.g. people who are blind or deaf, wheelchair users, or children with intellectual disabilities) but there are also people with mild and moderate impairments who need help to keep these impairments from worsening. Finally, as we age, we experience multimorbidities in which several, mild or moderate impairments across many body functions occur together, producing relatively high levels of overall disability.


SDG 4: QUALITY EDUCATION

Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Goal 4 on inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of life-long learning opportunities for all focuses on eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities. In addition, the proposal calls for building and upgrading education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and also provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.


SDG 4 AND PWDs

This context focuses on the realization of SDG 4 for persons with disabilities. The SDG 4 calls for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all. While all targets of SDG 4 are crucial in achieving equal education for persons with disabilities, only two targets explicitly mention disability, namely: 


Target 4.5

Calls for eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities. 


Target 4.a 

Calls for building and upgrading education facilities that are disability sensitive and providing inclusive learning environments for all.  


INTERNATIONAL NORMATIVE FRAMEWORKS RELEVANT FOR THE ACHIEVEMENT OF SDG GOAL 4 FOR PWDs

The right of persons with disabilities to education has been declared in a number of international instruments, including the World Declaration on Education for All, stemming from the World Conference on Education for All (1990), which stressed the importance of equity and equal access to basic education for all, with attention to persons with disabilities. 


The Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993) represented the strong political commitment to equalization of educational opportunities for persons with disabilities. 


In 2000, the global community reaffirmed its commitment to the Education for All movement by adopting the Dakar Framework for Action, Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments at the World Education Forum. The Dakar Framework for Action reinforced the previous efforts and commitments of the international community to progress toward inclusive education for all, including persons with disabilities. 


Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (2006) stipulated that, States Parties should ensure access to inclusive, quality and free primary and secondary education on an equal basis with others. In order to realize this right, the CRPD included a provision on the employment of teachers qualified in sign language and/or Braille and on disability awareness training for professionals and staff who work at all levels of education. Article 24 of the CRPD called for reasonable accommodation and for making learning environments accessible including through accessible educational materials. 


More recently, in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognized that persons with disabilities should have access to life-long learning opportunities that help them acquire the knowledge and skills needed to exploit opportunities and to participate fully in society. Persons with disabilities are also covered in SDG 4. 


In addition, the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway (2014) addressed the importance of providing high-quality education and training and called for enhancing international cooperation and investment in education, including support for transitions from basic to secondary education and from school to work for persons with disabilities.


Another frameworks focused on education for children with disabilities include The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which enshrined the right to education (articles 28 and 29) and specifically addressed the education of children with disabilities (article 23). Moreover, article 23, paragraph 3 asked States Parties to encourage extended assistance that should be designed to ensure that children with disabilities have effective access to and receive education and training. 


The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, which was adopted at the World Conference on Special Needs Education in 1994, outlined challenges faced by children with disabilities and called for equality of opportunity for children, youth and adults with disabilities in integrated settings. The framework also encouraged countries to adopt complementary legislative measures in other related fields such as health, social welfare and employment and urged better coordination at the national level for coherence and maximum results. 


Several international instruments established education as an integral part of universal human rights. For instance, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) stated in article 26 that “everyone has the right to education”. Furthermore, the right to education has been detailed in the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), the first international Convention, specifying the core elements of the right to education. It is worth noting that the Convention obligated States Parties not only to prohibit all forms of discrimination in education but also to provide equal educational opportunities. Among the United Nations human rights treaties, article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) covers the right to education in a comprehensive manner.


THE SITUATION OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN EDUCATION 

1- Many youths with disabilities remain excluded from education 

The proportion of the population aged 15 to 29 years who ever attended school indicates the percentage of this age cohort with any formal education, regardless of duration. Study shows that on average among 41 developing countries 87% of persons without disabilities versus 75% of persons with disabilities aged 15 to 29 have ever attended school. In ten of those countries, the gap between youth with and without disabilities is higher than 15 percentage points; but in 13 countries the gaps are below 5 percentage points. The largest gaps between persons with and without disabilities are observed in Cambodia (51% versus 94%), Indonesia (53% versus 98%), Timor-Leste (52% versus 90%) and Viet Nam (63% versus 98%). The lowest percentage of youth with disabilities who ever attended school is observed in Burkina Faso (25%). However, in 12 of these developing countries, the percentage of youth with disabilities who ever attended school is higher than 90%. 


2- Many children with disabilities are out of school. 

The out-of-school rate of children of primary and lower secondary school age is the proportion of children in a given age group who are not attending primary or secondary school. Some of these children may have attended school in the past and dropped out, some may enter school in the future, and some may never go to school. Data from six developing countries indicate that, on average, children with disabilities of primary school age (about 6 to 11 years in most countries) are more likely to be out of school than their peers without disabilities. The largest gap between children with and without disabilities was reported for Cambodia, with a 50-percentage point difference between the out-of-school rate of children with and without disabilities (57% versus 7%), which means that children with disabilities are eight times as likely to be out of school as their peers without disabilities. In other countries, the gap is not as wide as in Cambodia but still proves the stark inequality between children with and without disabilities. The out-of-school rates of children with disabilities are two to three times as high as those of children without disabilities in Colombia, the Maldives, Uganda and Yemen. On average, in these countries, children with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be out of school as children without disabilities. 


Study shows the out-of-school rate of adolescents of lower secondary school age (about 12 to 14 years in most countries). In all countries with data, adolescents with disabilities are more likely to be out of school than adolescents without disabilities. The average out-of-school rate across the countries with data is 18% for adolescents without disabilities and 26% for adolescents with disabilities. In Uganda, Yemen and Gambia more than 30% of children without disabilities of lower secondary school age are out of school. In Maldives and Colombia, 13% and 16% of children without disabilities of lower secondary school age are out of school, respectively.


3- Persons with disabilities are less likely to complete primary, secondary and tertiary education than persons without disabilities 

Children with disabilities are less likely to complete primary education than children without disabilities. Data from five developing countries show that, on average, the primary completion rate is 73% for children without disabilities and 56% for children with disabilities. For this small group of countries, the disability parity index is 0.76,193 meaning that children with disabilities are less likely to complete primary education than children without disabilities. The widest gaps between the two groups exist in Cambodia and Colombia: 73% of 14 to 16 year-old Cambodians without disabilities have completed their primary education, compared to only 44% of their peers with disabilities; in Colombia, the completion rate is 91% for those without disabilities and 63% for those with disabilities. In the Maldives, almost all 15 to 17 year-olds without disabilities completed primary education (98%), whereas only four out of five adolescents in the same cohort with disabilities (79%) completed primary education. Countries that have achieved higher completion rates for primary education for children without disabilities show wider gaps vis-à-vis children without disabilities, suggesting that efforts to improve completion rates need to be more inclusive.


As a direct consequence of lower primary completion rates, children with disabilities are also less likely to pursue higher levels of education. Study shows the completion rate for lower secondary education. In four of the five countries with data, adolescents with disabilities are less likely to complete lower secondary education than adolescents without disabilities. The average completion rate is 53% for adolescents without disabilities and 36% for adolescents with disabilities. In Cambodia, only 4% of adolescents with disabilities have completed lower secondary education, compared to 41% of their peers without disabilities – a larger gap than in any other country with data. Gambia is the only country with an opposite pattern: completion rates are higher for adolescents with disabilities than for those without disabilities. 


Persons with disabilities are also less likely to complete tertiary education. Among 41 countries, around 2012, 24% of persons 25 years of age or older without disabilities versus 12% with disabilities completed tertiary education. The highest gap between persons with and without disabilities is observed in Saudi Arabia, where 30% of adults without disabilities versus 7% of adults with disabilities completed tertiary education. In two other countries, Belgium and Cyprus, the gaps are also wider than 20 percentage points. In another 11 of these countries, the gap is higher than 15 percentage points. The percentage of persons with disabilities who completed tertiary education ranges from 1% in Cambodia, Maldives, Oman and Timor-Leste to 29% in Finland.


4- Persons with disabilities spend fewer years in school than persons without disabilities 

Mean years of schooling is the number of completed years of formal education at the primary level or higher, not counting years spent repeating individual grades. Study shows this indicator for the population 25 years and older, in 23 countries or territories. In all countries, persons with disabilities spend a lower average number of years in school than their counterparts without disabilities. On average, persons without disabilities have seven years of schooling and persons with disabilities have five years, in other words, persons 25 years and older without disabilities have 40% more years of schooling than persons with disabilities. In Ecuador, Mexico and Panama, the largest gaps can be identified. In Mexico and Panama, the difference in the years of schooling between persons with and without disabilities is 4.1 and 4.0 years, respectively, and in Ecuador, it is 3.4 years. In all other countries, the difference in the number of years of schooling between individuals with and without disabilities is at least one year. The exception is Mali, where the difference is only 0.3 years, but the mean years of schooling for the population 25 years and older is very low at 1.1 years for persons with disabilities and 1.4 years for persons without disabilities. In El Salvador and Mexico, persons without disabilities have nearly twice as many years of schooling as persons with disabilities, while in the United States persons with disabilities have almost as many years of schooling as their peers without disabilities.


5- In all countries, persons with disabilities have lower literacy rates than persons without disabilities 

Literacy is typically defined as the ability to read and write, with understanding, a short, simple statement about everyday life. The adult literacy rate for the population 15 years and older is shown in study for 36 countries. In all countries, persons with disabilities have lower literacy rates than persons without disabilities. The gaps range from 5 percentage points in Mali (2009 census) to 56 percentage points in Oman, where a large majority of adults (87%) without disabilities have basic literacy skills, compared to only a third (31%) of adults with disabilities. Large gaps in adult literacy rates between persons with and without disabilities are also present in Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, State of Palestine, Viet Nam and Yemen. In Viet Nam, the high adult literacy rate of 94% for persons without disabilities is in stark contrast with the 59% literacy rate among persons with disabilities. In Iran, there is a difference of 30 percentage points between the literacy rate of persons with disabilities (50%) and adults without disabilities (80%). The parity index, calculated by dividing the literacy rate of adults with disabilities by the literacy rate of adults without disabilities, is 0.69 on average and ranges from 0.36 in Oman – where the literacy rate is almost three times as high among adults without disabilities as among adults with disabilities – to 0.93 in Costa Rica.


6- Persons with disabilities still face many barriers to education 

Persons with disabilities are sometimes refused entry into schools because of their disability. Data from seven countries around 2011, show that between 6% of persons with disabilities in Nepal and 18% in Zambia have been refused entry into a school or a preschool because of their disability. In Mozambique and Eswatini, percentages are almost as high as in Zambia at 17%. On average among these seven countries, 13% of persons with disabilities have been refused entry into a school or preschool at least once because of their disability. 


Those who enter school still face other challenges. In nine countries around 2012, on average 9% of students with disabilities mainly attended special schools and 6% attended special classes in primary, secondary or tertiary school. In Eswatini and Botswana more than 10% of students with disabilities attend special schools. Evidence from 21 countries and territories in the Asia and Pacific region suggests that there are still many children with disabilities learning in special primary schools: on average 19%. Kyrgyzstan shows the highest percentage, at 97%, and four countries and territories – China, Nauru, Bhutan, and New Caledonia – show percentages above 40%. Students with disabilities are sometimes obliged to stop attending school because of financial and/or environmental barriers. In four countries, around 2010, on average, 17% of students with disabilities stopped attending school because it was too expensive, 13% because school was too far or no transport was available to take them to school, and 4% because of communication and language barriers.


Moreover, physical and virtual barriers at schools make it difficult for students with disabilities to participate. In six countries, around 2012, on average 22% of persons with disabilities reported that schools were not accessible or hindering. Percentages vary between 10% in Nepal and 33% in Mozambique. 


Unavailability and unaffordability of adequate assistive technologies are common barriers for persons with disabilities. In 2015, in Chile and Sri Lanka, 47% and 100%, respectively, of persons with disabilities used but needed more assistive devices to participate in education. Lack of electricity in many schools worldwide also compromises the use of assistive technology for education.


CURRENT PRACTICES IN EDUCATION FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES 

More and more countries are trying to make their educational systems more inclusive for persons with disabilities, removing barriers and addressing discrimination on the grounds of disability. In particular, many countries have included protections in their constitutions, laws or policies. Out of 193 United Nations Member States, 34 guarantee the right to education for persons with disabilities or protect against discrimination on the basis of disability in education in their constitutions. In 2017, 88% of 102 countries surveyed had a law or policy mentioning the right of children with disabilities to receive education, up from 62% in 2013. A majority of countries, 65% of 88 countries, also provided curricula inclusive of children with disabilities, as compared to only 42% in 2013. Many governments have also made progress in collecting disability data through the Education Management Information System (EMIS): in 2017, 53% of 101 countries had such a data collection system, up from 31% in 2013. The collection of data is key to allow governments to make evidence-based plans for their education systems, and/or to change attitudes towards children with disabilities.


However, many obstacles still remain for persons with disabilities to be included in mainstream educational systems. Around 2013, only in 44% of United Nations Member States could students with disabilities be taught in the same classroom as others without disabilities. In 39% of Member States, students with disabilities might attend the same schools but not necessarily the same classrooms, in 12% students with disabilities could attend special schools and in 5% children with disabilities received inadequate support in pursuing education. 


Most importantly, there remain considerable gaps at the school level: in materials and communication (including assistive products for learning), human resources (including teachers) and the physical environment (including the construction of accessible school buildings). Without these vital front-line resources in place, it is practically impossible to enable children with disabilities to go to school. These gaps can clearly be seen in many study. Despite progress made since 2013, by 2017 only 41% of 88 countries provided appropriate materials in their schools (up from 17% in 2013), and even fewer countries, 33%, provided adequate human resources (up from 18% in 2013) and physical environments (up from 22% in 2013) for students with disabilities.


Promoting inclusive education 

Several countries have enacted legislation, policies and guidelines to promote the inclusion of students with disabilities. Iraq developed the National Project of Comprehensive Educational Integration that aims at improving the quality of education provided to children with disabilities. Viet Nam established the National Action Plan for Education for All (2003–2015) with a provision for inclusive educational opportunities for children with disabilities. Ethiopia adopted its first strategy of Special Needs Education in 2006 to help ensure that children with disabilities have access to quality education. South Sudan’s Child Act stipulates the right to education for all, including persons with disabilities. A law in Czechia adopted in 2004 mandates schools to provide textbooks and teaching aids adapted to the needs of students with disabilities. In Canada, a guideline on inclusive education for schools was developed to encourage educational institutions to be equal and inclusive for all, including students with disabilities. There are also various initiatives to encourage the inclusion of students with disabilities into mainstream schools.


Some countries promote the enrolment of students with disabilities through direct admission to universities, accommodation in student dormitories, and scholarships. Advisory school assistance, support and guidance have also been provided in five countries to assess the situation and learning outcomes of students with disabilities. Germany gives annual awards to schools that provide equal opportunities for education to all students and promote diversity.


Many countries offer education plans inclusive of students with disabilities through tailored curricula or programmes. Some countries have provisions for alternative arrangements for exams and assessments, allowing exemptions, adaptation of the conditions or the format of the exam or revalidation activities.


Efforts have also been made for teaching and learning environments to be more adaptable to the diverse needs of students. Some schools are equipped with assistive technology and devices in support of learners, including ICT tools such as speech synthesizers, spelling tools, digital books, and computer technology and software. Some schools provide education in sign language or in braille, through the use of audio-visual materials, games and activities, or e-books for children who are deaf or have a hearing impairment, or with an accessible online library with audio books. In Europe, educational materials are made available in sign languages in libraries and online English language courses are offered to persons who are deaf or have a hearing impairment. In Asia and the Pacific, an archive and search engine for Asian sign languages was been developed for teaching purposes.


In many countries, art, such as drama, music and drawing, has been used as a pedagogical method for disability-inclusive education. For example, in South Africa, a school uses African drumming as a means of harnessing creativity in learners with disabilities, and in Egypt, a project provided an opportunity for students with and without disabilities to discuss what will happen in life in the year 2050 through drawings. In the United States, drama, dance and music were incorporated at schools for children with intellectual disabilities, whereas in the United Kingdom, students in primary school design and write books on disability as a resource for new students to enhance their understanding of disability.


Physical and virtual accessibility at schools 

Many countries took actions to enhance physical accessibility at schools by reviewing school buildings and facilities. They identified physical obstacles that prevent persons with disabilities from enjoying their right to education, and installed or modified ramps, lifts and public facilities. In Barbados, one school installed an elevator, acoustic floors that vibrate with music for dance classes, and large screens, braille printers and assistive audio software. Measures have also been in place to equip schools with specialized information technology solutions for persons with disabilities. In South Sudan, construction standards were revised to ensure that schools are accessible for students with disabilities. 


Offering financial support for inclusive education 

Financial support is vital for students to meet the extra costs incurred due to disability. Such financial aid can be provided in the form of student grants, loans and coverage of transport costs to school. For example, Mauritius provides a scholarship scheme for students with disabilities to pursue secondary and tertiary studies and allows reimbursement of taxi fares for university students with severe disabilities who have difficulties taking public transport.


Some countries provide financial support to schools to promote inclusive education. For instance, Australia and Armenia provide funding to educational institutions to strengthen the capacity of schools and teachers to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Latvia requires higher education institutions to prioritize a candidate with disabilities in granting a stipend.


Building the capacity of teachers 

Building the capacity of teachers in inclusive education is essential to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Teacher training classes and/or the provision of training manuals for teachers have been offered in some countries. For example, a train-the-trainer programme was provided to prepare educators from national and provincial universities and colleges across Viet Nam to expand inclusive education into all preschool, primary and secondary schools. Ethiopia offered new teacher programmes on education of children with disabilities. A school in Finland provided opportunities for teachers of students with disabilities to share knowledge on methods for inclusive education and for mainstreaming equality among students. Similarly, in Cambodia, a programme was established for primary school teachers to enhance their understanding of students with disabilities and to prevent bullying in schools. Initiatives in other countries included software to create public educational materials in sign language to assist teachers and university courses to produce teachers who can teach in sign language. In Mexico and Spain, methods for teaching students with special educational needs have been developed.


Awareness-raising on inclusive education 

Various awareness-raising activities have been undertaken. Many examples include awareness-raising activities on the rights of students with disabilities in schools or in communities. For instance, Malta provided opportunities for students with and without disabilities to interact. In Ireland, a puppet show that illustrates relationships between persons with and without disabilities was utilized to educate primary school students about autism and deafness.


Monitoring the implementation of inclusive education 

Various countries established monitoring mechanisms at local or national levels, for example, through the formulation of commissions, task force teams, or groups that provide guidance on education to ensure the needs of students with disabilities are met and to monitor progress. Some countries have established follow-up services or mechanisms which rely on monitoring by communities. For instance, a disability helpline was developed to accommodate concerns reported by families of students with disabilities and to offer solutions in cooperation with local education authorities and school inspectorates. Parents have been included in monitoring the effectiveness of the measures taken for inclusive education. 


Countries have also tried to collect, record and analyse data on disability in the context of education. Argentina developed an information system with data on pupils with disabilities in schools. In developing indicators that track educational performance, New Zealand disaggregates data to accurately measure the progress of students with disabilities.


At the regional level, the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education developed an assessment resource guide on inclusive education. At the international level, the International Observatory and Inclusion in Education was established to produce methodological guidelines, foster research and disseminate internationally comparable data for SDG 4.


CONCLUSIONS AND THE WAY FORWARD 

The findings from various studies confirm that, among the countries with data, persons with disabilities encounter multiple barriers to education and they are nearly always worse off than persons without disabilities: the former are less likely to attend school, they are more likely to be out of school, they are less likely to complete primary or secondary education, they have fewer years of schooling, and they are less likely to possess basic literacy skills. Several countries have made efforts to strengthen national legal frameworks and devise policies and actions to address these gaps, by enacting anti-discrimination laws, making schools physically accessible, adapting teaching methods, providing financial support, enhancing capacities for teachers and staff, and raising awareness on inclusive education. An increased number of countries has also invested in education data collection systems inclusive of children with disabilities. Despite this progress, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers as many of these actions remain concentrated in a few countries or communities. There is an urgent need to improve access to education for persons with disabilities because educational disadvantage could lead to higher rates of social exclusion and poverty and therefore have long-term implications for their capacity to participate in the labour force. The disability education gap could undermine the achievement of SDG 4 as well as other SDGs. To achieve SDG 4 for persons with disabilities, in line with the CRPD, more political commitment and efforts are needed, particularly in implementing and scaling up the following actions: 


(1) Strengthen national policies and the legal system to ensure access to quality education for all persons with disabilities. Ensure that national legal and policy frameworks reflect the rights of persons with disabilities to education and eliminate discriminatory policies and laws. Promote the enrolment of persons with disabilities into mainstream education. Carry out educational system reforms, with a view to promote inclusive education and to ensure equal learning opportunities. This would also help prevent risks of segregation and contribute to ensuring a truly inclusive learning environment for all. 


(2) Build the capacity of policymakers as well other decision makers at both the community and national levels to enhance their knowledge of the educational needs of persons with disabilities and to identify and implement strategies on inclusive education. 


(3) Make schools and educational facilities accessible by creating an enabling environment for students with disabilities and by making physical and virtual environments accessible. It is essential that students with disabilities can access all school buildings and other educational and recreational facilities, including classrooms, common rooms, libraries, dining areas, toilets and playgrounds. Universal Design, a set of principles that can be applied in the construction or refurbishment of buildings, should be used as a guide for improving school accessibility as well as analysing the current situation in schools. 


(4) Provide training to teachers and other education specialists to gain knowledge and experience in inclusive education for persons with disabilities. Teachers as well as other educators are at the centre of education systems and should receive appropriate pre-service and in-service training and continued support for the adoption of inclusive pedagogy to meet the diverse needs of learners. 


(5) Adopt a learner-centred pedagogy which acknowledges that everyone has unique needs that can be accommodated through a continuum of teaching approaches. It is essential that teaching and learning materials are available, accessible, well-designed, affordable and adapted to ensure that the diverse learning needs of different learners are met. An inclusive curriculum should address all learners’ cognitive, emotional, social and creative development. Accessible and assistive technologies, including digital technologies and communication aids, can play a significant role in this regard by enhancing the accessibility of teaching and learning materials. For example, some persons with disabilities require hearing aids, easy-to-read or large print texts, books and other reading materials in braille, as well as support for sign language. 


(6) Engage civil society and local communities in inclusive education. It is essential that local communities are fully engaged in improving the quality of education for persons with disabilities. Parents should be empowered to participate in the education of their children with disabilities. Prejudice and negative attitudes in communities pose a serious barrier against equal opportunities for persons with disabilities to receive education, and should be combatted. 


(7) Establish monitoring mechanisms to regularly monitor and evaluate the implementation of policies and laws on inclusive education. The monitoring and evaluation process should involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities and their parents and/or caregivers, where appropriate. Disability-inclusive indicators should be developed and used in line with the indicators for SDG 4. 


(8) Improve national collection and disaggregation of education data by disability. A national census can be an important source of information on disability, since the data can usually be disaggregated by sex, age, location and other dimensions. Household surveys also provide valuable education data by disability, but sample sizes should be sufficiently large to allow disaggregation by sex, location and other status including age, income and ethnicity. Special attention should be given to producing education data on children with disabilities. Moreover, information on the accessibility of school buildings and learning materials should be requested in routine administrative data collection systems. 


(9) Explore crowdsourcing applications to obtain bottom-up information on the accessibility of schools for persons with disabilities to inform accessibility policies. Assessing the accessibility of schools is expensive and complex. Several online and smartphone applications already allow users to publicly review accessibility for wheelchair users of any facility in the world, including schools. Current information on schools mainly covers developed countries and future efforts should focus on gathering crowdsourced information in developing countries and to update these applications to capture information on accessibility for any type of disability. Crowdsourced information reflects the direct experience of the users and can be helpful to inform national accessibility policies for education.