ABSTRACT

I learned that a human rights agenda had taken hold worldwide through national and international law reform. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UNESCO Education for All commitments-the Salamanca Declaration, the Dakar Statement, and the Jomtien Declarationhad reiterated that ‘all’ children with disabilities have a right to education. Education must be accessible to all children and ‘all’ must include children with disabilities. ‘Education for All’ became an international rallying call for inclusive education. If people were denied access to education because of stereotypes, devaluing attitudes, systems and public policies that did

not accommodate diversity, it was increasingly understood that this was a violation of human rights. During this period I read many studies about how entrenched attitudes and practices, policies and laws could be barriers to inclusion; and that development of equal opportunities and inclusive education was about minimizing exclusion and fostering participation (Booth and Ainscow 1998, Slee 1993). Whatever the techniques chosen, the goal was the same: to reduce the adverse treatment, the cultural injustice, and in the case of children with disabilities, institutionalized discrimination that made our children invisible from our lives. During this time I was privileged to be a part of a four-nation project aided by UNESCO entitled ‘Developing Sustainable Inclusion Policy and Practice.’ South Africa, Brazil, and England were the other countries involved in this international collaborative research. The project was led by two eminent professionals in Inclusive Education, namely, Professor Tony Booth and Professor Mel Aisncow. Assisting me as Research Assistant was Mrs. Poonam Natarajan, Director, Vidya Sagar, (formerly The Spastics Society of India), from Chennai.