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International Policies on Inclusion  

Bronagh Byrne

The education of children and young people with disabilities and the appropriate form this should take is an issue with which countries across the world are grappling. This challenge has not been assisted by the diverse interpretations of “inclusion” within and between States. The international community, in the form of the United Nations (UN), its associated treaty bodies, and its related agencies have taken on an increasingly critical role in working with countries to develop some kind of global consensus on how inclusion should be defined, its core features, and what it should look like in practice. The conclusions of discussions on these issues have emerged in the form of declarations, treaties, general comments, and guidelines, which countries across the world are expected to adhere to, to varying extents. Together, these constitute a set of international policies and benchmarks on inclusion in an educational context, informing and shaping contemporary national policy and practice. At its core is the underlying principle that children and young people with disabilities have a fundamental right to education without discrimination. Examination of international discourse on inclusion indicates that its meaning, form, and content has become more refined, with increasing emphasis being placed on the quality of inclusive practice as opposed to merely questioning its merits.

Article

The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities as a Global Tipping Point for the Participation of Persons With Disabilities  

Paul Harpur and Michael Ashley Stein

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a historical tipping point, globally precipitating and enabling persons with disabilities to exercise their rights. Prior to the CRPD, laws and practices restricted the capacity of persons with disabilities to be present, let alone empowered, within society. By contrast, leveraging the call of “nothing about us without us,” the disability rights movement precipitated a participatory dynamic throughout the CRPD’s drafting sessions. Disabled peoples’ organizations (DPOs), as nongovernmental organizations, selected their own spokespeople, attended all public meetings, made statements, received copies of official documents, and distributed their own position papers. This involvement has had profound and continuing lasting effects, with participation enshrined in the CRPD’s text and precipitating a new global norm. The CRPD requires full and effective participation and inclusion in society and equality of opportunity. It further requires states to closely consult with and involve persons with disabilities, through DPOs, in decisions, policies, and laws affecting them and to promote DPO development. DPOs are also authorized to implement and monitor the CRPD, thereby facilitating the work of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which to date has been dominated by independent experts with disabilities. Collectively, these requirements are intended to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully participate in the CRPD’s visionary agenda.