3.5 Equipping inclusive schools with accessible ICTs
The clear position of the United Nations, UNESCO and the WSIS Plan of Action is that children with disabilities should be able to receive an inclusive education through the use of accessible ICTs. National policies should avoid the development of a two-tier educational system consisting of ‘normal’ schools and special schools for children with disabilities. Section 2 showed that funding models for special schools are likely to incur twice the costs of educating children in inclusive schools. Similarly, it was shown that the cost of including accessibility in the development of school buildings, software and equipment procurement can significantly reduce the overall costs of accommodating these requirements.
The budget required to equip inclusive schools with accessible ICTs should be established by education ministries and local education authorities in close consultation with students, their families and advocates and relevant disabled persons’ organizations. Careful research should be carried out to establish which ICTs are most required. Schools that accommodate the needs of their students with disabilities will likely have more need for Internet access. Economies associated with bulk purchasing should be realized through centralized procurement, using appropriate public procurement policies wherever possible. However, each school should be equipped according to the needs of that school’s children. Blanket provision of AT should be avoided in favour of each school defining its own requirements.
Within resource-limited countries, careful research and planning is required to help prioritize the main types of support and AT required. The main challenge is to “make products and services available, accessible and affordable”.101 Consideration should be given to reducing or waiving import duties and taxes on the ICTs required to enable persons with disabilities to access an equitable education. An AT ecosystem is needed to ensure that the infrastructure, personnel and products are available. Assessment and support services, such as installation, training and follow-up (to ensure safe and efficient use) are an important part of this ecosystem. The next section deals with the development and implementation of accessible ICTs within an inclusive school system, and the stakeholders and roles involved in the development of a sustainable AT ecosystem.
101Borg, J., Assistive technology in developing countries: national and international responsibilities to implement the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities. Available at http://www.thelancetglobalhealthnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/Disability-REV-3.pdf