All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education is proud of its participation in this year’s international World Down Syndrome Day (21 March) #WDSD18 video campaign led by CoorDown, Italy’s national Down syndrome association.
With the creative and communications talent of Luca Pannese and Luca Lorenzini of Publicis New York, together with the support of Down Syndrome International, Down Syndrome Australia, Down’s Syndrome Association (UK), Movimento Down (Brazil) and All Means All, and with the the patronage of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CoorDown has delivered yet another powerful video advocacy campaign to advance the rights of people with Down syndrome.
This year’s video takes the form of an animated children’s book story entitled Lea goes to school – read by Grace, a 10 year old child with Down syndrome.
The core message of the campaign is that inclusive education is a human right and that it is time to remove the systemic and cultural barriers to students with Down syndrome and other disabilities realising this critical human right.
The goal of the campaign, reflected in the hashtag #IncludeUsFromTheStart and supported by the information website www.includeusfromthestart.com, is to highlight the importance for students with disability of accessing an inclusive education from the beginning of their educational experience in determining academic and social life-long outcomes, influencing acceptance and respect for diversity and maximising their future participation in the community and life generally.
This goal is in alignment with the work of All Means All in progressing the implementation of an inclusive education system and the removal of the barriers that limit the rights of some students, including many students with disability, to access a quality inclusive education in Australian schools.
A children’s story with a powerful message
The story of Lea Goes to School is short but in its simplicity it presents a number of important themes and messages:
- In being narrated by a young girl with Down syndrome it recognises that the right to inclusive education is a fundamental human right of the child – as recognised by Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (to which Australia is a party) and UN General Comment No. 4 on the Right to Inclusive Education. The story book is the creative “device” that allows this serious message to be delivered through the voice of a child.
- The opening statement that the child protagonist is at a “cross roads” introduces the fact that for many children around the world the direct path to an inclusive education in a regular classroom amongst their same-age peers is crossed by a diversionary lower trajectory “special” education path that, as research demonstrates, more often leads to social isolation and segregated work and living settings.
- The talking sign-post that stands at the fork in the path and recommends the separate segregated education path through life represents the systemic and cultural barriers to students accessing a genuinely inclusive education.
- The statement by the child protagonist to the sign-post, “I’m not special. I’m Lea!” challenges the euphemistic foundation and logic of the “special” path and emphasises the importance of educational settings and teachers seeing and responding to each child for the individual that they are.
- The young protagonist’s intuitive rejection of the “easier” low-expectations “special” path underscores the artificiality of the “special” path and the importance of students with disability being academically challenged and held to high expectations.
- The simplicity of the story is also reflective of the simplicity of inclusion as a cultural concept and goal – ultimately inclusion is about being a valued part of one’s community. The achievement of that goal is incompatible with segregation of people with disability, in education, employment or other settings.
Over 40 years of research-based evidence shows that inclusive education – a system in which every student is welcomed and supported and where all students learn together in regular classrooms – maximises academic and social outcomes for all students, not just students with disability.
Inclusive education does not happen by itself – students must be properly supported to access the classroom curriculum and teachers and school staff must also be supported, trained and resourced. It requires the progressive systemic and cultural transformation of our “dual pathway” general and special education systems into a single genuinely inclusive, fully accessible and properly resourced system. That transformation – the removal of the systemic and cultural barriers – begins with acknowledging the right of every child to receive an inclusive education.
Dr Robert Jackson, co-Founder and a Director of All Means All: “We know that children with Down syndrome are among the most excluded and segregated in Australia’s education system and society and World Down Syndrome Day is an opportunity for us to champion their educational rights and to raise consciousness about inclusive education as a fundamental human right of every child. The message of the video reflects what we know from decades of research, that educational experiences are critical in determining the life-long trajectory for children with disability and that an inclusive education is the most direct path to a better future for them.”
Ms Catalina Devandas, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities: “Access to quality education is essential for children with disabilities to be able to effectively participate in the community. It is a fundamental human right, and one of the keys for ending poverty and making our societies more just. We must all be committed to ensure that schools are inclusive of children with disabilities.”
All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education is a nationwide multi- stakeholder alliance working together for the implementation of an inclusive education system in Australia. You can read more about us here: www.allmeansall.org.au
World Down Syndrome Day is an international event – officially ratified by a UN resolution – created to raise greater awareness and understanding about Down syndrome, usher in a new culture that embraces human diversity and promotes respect and inclusion in society for all people with Down syndrome.