More than three decades ago persons who faced a condition that affected their development within society were not included into the education system; or if they were it happened in special schools. This happens as throughout history, societies have reacted to their members who are “different” in a variety of ways (Casey, 1994, p. 7). Nevertheless, attitudes regarding disabilities have changed atdifferent contexts in most of western countries, in which the established approach is the one of “normalisation” of students’ lifestyle, and their inclusion into the standard education system (Casey, 1994, p. 11) . As a consequence, laws and policies have been established in the last 20 years by the governments of different countries, starting by the consideration of human rights, and mainly theright to self development, in which education is paramount. Therefore laws have been enforced to assure all members of the society have the same rights, including students with diverse abilities.
As a consequence of the human rights movements from the 60s and 70s, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of disabled Persons (1975) took place. Not long after that, in 1978, the Warnock Report, itwas the result of the work of a distinguished committee delegated by the UK government, and recommended, among several others, the abolition of medical categories of handicap (Ashman & Elkins, 2005, p. 47). It was followed by the U.S.’s All Handicapped Children’s Act (P.L.94-124) and the British Education Act (1981) in where these recommendations were reflected.
In Australia, The FederalDiscrimination Law, in chapter 5 refers to The Disability Discrimination Act (1992), states that it is unlawful for an education authority to discriminate against a student by denying the student access, or limiting the student’s access to any benefit provided by the authority (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2009). Thus, it is very likely for teachers to find themselves in a situation where theyhave to teach children with disabilities within the regular classroom, and that is why they should be prepared to cater the needs of those students, regardless of their disability, without affecting the learning processes of their non-disabled peers.
Mackenzie Kench, a 15 year student from New Zealand, was giving a speech for her NCA level 1 assessment aided by a communication device in which shetypes the words with her big toe and it speaks for her, this is because she has severe cerebral palsy; as a consequence she is not able to speak and has to use an electric wheelchair that she controls with her right foot. The assessors gave her a high distinction mark, but that decision was reversed by a higher authority as she did not give her speech with her own voice, changing the initial markto a fail (Attitude TV, 2009). As Mackenzie is not able to speak, she has no other way to deliver her speech; she was frustrated and argued that the sound produced by the machine was her own voice as it is the system she uses for daily communication. In this case, regardless of the accessibility of the school and its inclusiveness, as she is a member of a regular class, the decision of theassessors breaks the principle mentioned earlier in this essay, in which persons with a disability have the same rights for development as non-disabled ones.
Another issue that upsets Mackenzie is her inability to communicate with her peers, as it takes a while for her to type her thoughts on the communication device and by the time she finishes, the conversation has already moved onto a differenttopic, as a consequence her social interaction skills are affected as she finds it hard to find friends and chat with them, as well as to participate in class.
Therefore Mackenzie’s case shows two different ways in which education can discriminate in base of students’ skills by not considering her inability to speak, and not setting up a less restrictive environment for her, in which she is able to...
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