Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blatant discrimination

The IHC is complaining to the Human Rights Commission about discrimination against disabled persons in our education system. And if the list below is anything to go by, it looks like they have an excellent case:

IHC advocacy director Trish Grant said many disabled children faced unlawful conditions or effective bans, denying them the same access to the curriculum and isolating them from friends and classmates.

Examples included:

- Conditions limiting the hours disabled children may attend class or sending them home when teacher aides are sick.

- Access to extra-curricular activities such as school plays or camps being denied because of disabilities.

- Deaf children in classrooms without a teacher who understands sign language, despite its status as an official language.

- Parents being asked to contribute financially to keep their disabled children in mainstream classrooms.

- Suspension for disability-related behaviour, not misconduct.

The latter is blatantly discriminatory, and entirely unjustifiable. And if it is going on in our schools, then those schools and the Ministry responsible for overseeing them need to stop it immediately.

The complaint highlights the government's double standards on human rights. At the beginning of the month, the government was stroking itself over its decision to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 24 of the Convention requires parties to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability in education, and to ensure that

(a) Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability;

(b) Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live;

(c) Reasonable accommodation of the individual's requirements is provided;

(d) Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education;

It would be nice if rather than merely talking about these commitments, the government implemented them.