What is needed for an inclusive college education?

Integration and inclusion are often used as synonyms. However, they represent different philosophies.

What is needed for an inclusive college education?
What is needed for an inclusive college education?

In the first, it is considered an achievement that the person with a disability enters the student environment. Inclusion, on the other hand, does not focus on the disability or diagnosis of the person, but on their abilities.

It does not focus on special education, but on general education, how to transform the classroom. It does not try to give all students the same thing, but what each one needs, eliminating the different barriers. It does not ignore or disguise limitations, recognizing that they are real.

The barrier of access

"Despite being State policy, the strategies developed to guarantee access and retention of students with disabilities in higher education do not materialize," say researchers Carlos X. Espinosa, Víctor G. Gómez and Carlos M Cañedo, from the Metropolitan University, in the article 'Integration or inclusion? Ecuadorian higher education and full access for students with disabilities' (Science and Society magazine, 2012). They claim that until now the movement has focused on offering special financial treatment.

For them, it is necessary "a record of the implementation of programs, support and sensitization systems, curricular, technological, informational and architectural adaptations that facilitate the access of people with disabilities to the university".

Convincing them to stay

The permanence of students with disabilities and other underserved groups is another concern. The university was an exclusionary space for centuries and vestiges of that remain, writes researcher Juan Carlos Ocampo, of the Clinical Psychology course at the Catholic University of Santiago de Guayaquil ('Discapacidad, inclusión y educación superior en Ecuador', 2018).

The number of students with disabilities decreases as the degree of disability increases.

In the case of UCSG, Ocampo did not find considerable differences in the income of students with disabilities according to their gender or province of origin, "but by grade and type of disability. In addition, "the number of students with disabilities decreases as the degree of disability increases.

Adapting all of us

Inclusion seeks to change the entire educational community (and society) through adaptations and differentiation in education. Alegría Solines, Master in Education, lists adaptations in the material, in the way of evaluating and in the times that are assigned to fulfill jobs and tasks.

The adaptations should not only be implemented in the infrastructure of the place, but also at the level of planning and didactics of the courses.

Teachers, for example, should have course material in different formats. "If we are talking about a boy with blindness or low vision problems, he will need the texts in Braille or audio, so that he can meet the demands of the class", writes Solines in the article 'Inclusión en la educación superior' (Revista IDEA, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, 2017).

Whereas a student with ADD (attention deficit disorder) will probably need extended time for homework or exams, as well as extra explanations and additional texts. "In dyslexia, audio material can be used and the form of assessment can be oral.

Adaptations, however, must evolve. Teachers need to keep learning new methodologies. "Adaptations should not only be implemented in the local infrastructure, but also at the level of course planning and didactics.

A local example

The Student Welfare Department of the Casa Grande University works on programmatic actions that conceive the student as the center of university activity, from a holistic approach, privileging systemic and preventive actions, explains Jessica Quintana, General Director of Social Responsibility and Community Outreach at this university study center. As far as students are concerned, the programs are Student Welfare, Student Insurance, Sports, Socio-Economic Support (Scholarships and Credits), Student Volunteering.

Likewise, it continues, the facilities are adapted for people with reduced mobility, according to universal accessibility standards. "Students with special learning needs and mental health disorders receive personalized counseling and follow-up.

To strengthen their commitment against all forms of discrimination, they plan to conduct a study next year of perceptions of respect for diversity within their academic community. "Results that will serve to guide, if necessary, the necessary actions to guarantee a safe space for all," he concludes.

What to do as a student?

"The best advice is to ask your fellow student with a disability if he or she really needs help," explains María José Toledo, director of Somos Capaces (IG: somos capaces.ec), where he or she promotes a culture of inclusion and accessibility in society. "Sometimes, because we want to do good, we minimize them or we consider that they cannot carry out a certain activity on their own. Their independence must be respected," he warns. "They will tell us if they need us.

People with disabilities agree: there is nothing worse than someone else doing their job, imposing their help or treating them like children.

According to María José, most people with a disability agree that there is nothing worse than someone else doing their job, imposing their help or treating them like children. "Let us remember that they are people like us and we have to treat them according to their age. That's part of respect and being truly inclusive.

Finally, she points out some aspects that she considers to be pending to be strengthened.

That the physical environment is accessible (it is not just having a ramp).

2. Consider each student as an individual element.

3. Avoid assumptions and take care of language (the correct term to treat a person with some kind of condition is a "person with a disability").

4. Organize group activities that encourage inclusion and do not allow anyone to make fun of someone for being 'different'. "Diversity is the only characteristic we all have in common," she says.

Source: El Universo

Recommended stories