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Education and Disability

The Flagship on Education for All and the Right to education for Persons with Disabilities: Towards Inclusion


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The right to education is universal and must extend to all children, youth, and adults with disabilities. This right is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and addressed in several significant, internationally approved declarations, including the World Declaration for Education for All (1990), the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disability (1993), the UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action (1994), and the Dakar Framework for Action (2000).

The goal of the Dakar Framework for Action is to achieve "education for all" by 2015. The goal of Dakar will only be achieved when all nations recognize that the universal right to education extends to individuals with disabilities, and when all nations act upon their obligation to establish or reform public education systems that are accessible to, and meet the needs of, individuals with disabilities.

This obligation on the state extends to the governments of developing and industrialized nations, and must engage all government bodies charged with setting and carrying out public education and international development assistance programs and priorities.

This Flagship on Education for All and the Right to education for Persons with Disabilities: Towards Inclusion, has been established to act as a catalyst to ensure that the right to education, and the goals of the Dakar Framework, are realized for individuals with disabilities.

This Flagship has been formed by an alliance of diverse organizations, including global disability organizations, international development agencies, intergovernmental agencies, and experts in the fields of special and inclusive education from developed and developing nations. The Flagship welcomes as members all those who share its goals.

The Flagship is only one venue, and is comprised of just a small number of entities and individuals working to achieve the goals of Education for All. To be successful, this Flagship must engage the efforts and resources of other EFA actors, including donor and lender organizations and government ministries. This Flagship must also work in partnership with others involved in the EFA effort, including those whose primary focus is on such issues as quality teacher preparation and training, early child development, gender equity, education in rural areas, education monitoring tools, and other areas critical to the availability of quality and equitable education for all.

In all of its work, this Flagship will stress that mainstream government and non-government entities need to work directly and in partnership with local, national, regional, and global organizations that are comprised of and represent individuals with disabilities and their families. These "disability" organizations represent diverse groups with diverse educational needs. Their representatives must be engaged in the development of national plans of action; and they must be consulted to ensure that educational facilities, curricula and materials are appropriate, and include necessary accommodations.

Our challenge is significant. According to best estimates of international agencies, we know the following:

- 98% children with disabilities in developing countries do NOT attend schools'

- 500,000 children every year lose some part of their vision due to vitamin A deficiency.

- 41 million babies are born each year at risk of mental impairment due to insufficient iodine in their mothers' diets.

- For every child killed in armed conflict, three are injured and permanently disabled. 40% out of 26,000 persons killed and injured by landmines every year are children. Over 10 million children are psychologically traumatised by armed conflicts.

- Child labour and maltreatment such as corporal punishment, amputation, blinding of detainees, are responsible for children becoming disabled, and can lead to mental illness, physical and psychological disabilities, difficulties in schools or at work, etc. (UNICEF, 2002)

We also know that the vast majority of individuals with hearing or visual impairments in developing nations lack basic literacy; that individuals with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities are treated with often cruel neglect; and that there is a strong link between disability and poverty. We also know that all individuals with disabilities, given the opportunity, can lead meaningful, productive lives, and contribute to the social and economic well being of their family and community.

Education and life-long learning opportunities can and must erase these gaps in economic and social development that effectively marginalize individuals with disabilities.

Resources must be mobilized to create effective educational opportunities that foster inclusive communities and social justice. The absence of resources and effective initiatives cannot be seen as consequences of lack of money, but as a lack of will.

The Flagship on Education for All and the Right to Education for Persons with Disabilities: Towards Inclusion, represents a joint effort among UN organisations, NGOs and donor countries acting together as a catalyst in the process of achieving Education for All. The Flagship seeks to unite all partners in its effort to reach out to children, young people and adults with disabilities, and to promote solutions that can translate universal rights into inclusive realities.


Recognizing the universal right to education, the Flagship seeks to unite all EFA partners in their efforts to provide access to and promoting completion of quality education for every child, youth, and adult with a disability.

Strategic Objectives:

- to combat discrimination and remove structural barriers to learning and participation in education

- to promote a broad concept of education, including essential life skills and life-long learning

- to contribute to a focus on the needs of persons with disabilities when resources and activities address the realisation of EFA goals


In order to reach this goal, the Flagship will:

- Have the full participation of persons with disabilities and families in the design of all Flagship activities.

- Promote the full participation of persons with disabilities and families in the development of policies and practices related to the education of persons with disabilities at local,national, regional, and global levels.

- Seek to ensure that all governmental entities, donors, and NGO's endorse the universal right of education for all children, youth, and adults with a disability.

- Act as a catalyst to fully incorporate the Flagship Goal into national plans of action and regional policies.

- Work in partnership with all other EFA Flagships to fully endorse and incorporate the right of educating every person with a disability into their efforts.

- Mobilize resources in support of the Flagship Goal through obtaining commitment of new resources from national and international entities and leveraging existing EFA resources.

- Seek to ensure that the EFA Monitoring Process includes specific quantitative and qualitative statistics and indicators related to persons with disabilities and documentation of resources allocated to the implementation of EFA for these individuals.

- Identify and disseminate effective practices and stimulate research and studies related to the Flagship Goal to include such areas as:

- Quality teacher education

- School organization including adequate and accessible facilities

- Curriculum and pedagogy

- Assistive devices and appropriate materials.

- Promote the right of every child and youth with a disability to express his/her view pertaining to his/her education and life skills as defined by Article 23.1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UNESCO is the lead agency for the Flagship. The Flagship can be contacted through its Secretariat, housed jointly as follows:

Kenneth Eklindh
7, place de Fontenoy
753 52 Paris 07
Tel: + 33 (0)1 45 68 09 74

Siri Wormnaes
University of Oslo
P.O. Box 1140 Blindern
0317 Oslo
Tel: + 47 22 85 81 46

UNESCO Website in Inclusive Education