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Assistive Technology and Education
August 25, 2011 — 11:30 a.m.

Presenters:  Steven Rothstein, Perkins School for the Blind
David Morrissey, United States International Council on Disability

Moderator:  Anthony Bloome, USAID Office of Education

This panel, conducted as a roundtable discussion, focused on the needs of children with disabilities and some of the actions being taken from a policy and program perspective. Presenters highlighted both “high-tech” and “low-tech” methods for engaging children with disabilities in the classroom and international conventions designed to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Participants shared challenges and opportunities in working with parents and communities, approaching governments, and engaging media to further the cause of education for children with disabilities.
David Morrissey shared his organization’s experience as an advocate for ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and its effort to compile a Disability Rights Library with best practices and lessons learned from organizations and programs all over the world. The library is an especially important project because many countries do not have any civil rights legislation geared to persons with disabilities. Morrissey commented on the importance of media organizations and religious communities in de-stigmatizing disability and encouraging parental involvement. He emphasized the importance of highlighting the accomplishments of programs that focus on disability and education.

Steven Rothstein provided background information on the history and work of the Perkins School for the Blind, based on the idea that all children can learn, no matter what their disability. He demonstrated some of the “low-tech” objects that can be used in classrooms as teaching tools for children with visual or motor-skills impairments and described voice-guided computers and other “high-tech” instruments that can also be used to help children with disabilities learn. Rothstein also highlighted the importance of addressing children’s needs with both public policy and grassroots efforts, where governments are involved but individual schools, parent groups, and communities take the initiative to implement small-scale changes that can spread and create large-scale change.

Participant comments focused on advocacy—working with government ministries and the challenges of working in places where there is widespread discrimination. The discussion focused on how best to get the word out in those contexts. Participants also voiced their concerns about funding for disability-oriented programs that often do not fit the mold of a particular sector. The group indicated that some organizations in the field encounter the challenge of scaling up disability-oriented programs.

Key take away points Development organizations face multiple challenges in providing access to quality education for children with disabilities. Monitoring and evaluation, cooperation, and sharing best practices and lessons learned among these organizations will be the key to empowering families and communities to provide the opportunity for the children who are capable of learning and thriving. Assistive technologies are not always high-tech or costly and affordable options are often available.


No presentations available from this session





For questions related to the 2011 Education Workshop,
please contact Rachel Kozolup at rkozolup@jbsinternational.com