The Right to Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities Under International Human Rights Law
This chapter is the lead chapter in the volume, edited by Gauthier De Beco, Shivaun Quinlivan and Janet Lord, THE RIGHT TO INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IN INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Forthcoming.
Posted: 15 Feb 2018
Date Written: September 2017
In most, if not all, countries in the world today, children and adults with disabilities are denied their basic right to education. Through policies and practices of outright exclusion, segregation or indirect discrimination and neglect, students with disabilities are denied access to mainstream schools and classroom learning. Many students with disabilities are simply unable to attend school because of the inaccessibility of the schools and classrooms, and the lack of accessible transportation to and from school. Further, of those students with disabilities who do attend school, many are subjected to inferior education in separate schools or classrooms, often without accommodations and supports, and taught by teachers who are either untrained or unwilling to include students with disabilities in their classrooms. The lack of educational opportunities for children and youth with disabilities is particularly acute in the Global South. Yet without education, children and adults with disabilities will remain on the margins of society, without the tools they need to live a meaningful life. Society, too, will be forced to pay the price and remain deprived of the valuable contributions of people with disabilities.
In this chapter, I explore the history of the development of the right to education for people with disabilities under international human rights law. The chapter begins with a discussion of the barriers to accessing quality education for children, youth and adults with disabilities. It continues, in Part II, with an overview of the development of the right to education for students with disabilities under international human rights law generally, and the right to inclusive education in particular, prior to the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006. Part III discusses the drafting of Article 24 of the CRPD, which was adopted to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their human dignity” (as stated in Article 1 of the CRPD). To implement this goal, the CRPD guarantees the right of all children and adults with disabilities to “[f]ull and effective participation and inclusion in society.” These rights are enhanced with specific recommendations regarding how they will be enforced, including in Article 24, which declares the right to education and "lifelong learning" in an “inclusive education system,” for all children and adults with disabilities. This section of the chapter includes a detailed analysis of the drafting process of Article 24, based in part on the author’s own observations of the UN drafting committee’s negotiation on Article 24. Following this discussion of the background of the CRPD, Part IV discusses the CRPD Committee, which now oversees the implementation of the CRPD, including Article 24. The chapter ends by identifying the challenges that remain in implementing Article 24’s goal of inclusive education for all children, youth and adults with disabilities throughout the world. Even after the adoption of the CRPD and its ratification by 175 countries (as of February 2018), millions of children and adults with disabilities do not attend inclusive schools. Yet, without inclusive education, the CRPD’s goal of ensuring equality for people with disabilities will remain elusive.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation