While it is true that the rights of the disability sector have slowly been recognized through the existence of international policies such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), people with disabilities continue to be the most marginalized social groups in the world.
Several pieces of literature stress that these challenges are products of society’s low level of awareness which consequently contributes to the prevailing negative attitude towards disability. Definitely, addressing the whole issue of exclusion among people with disabilities requires multifaceted strategies. One of them is exploring the role of education in allowing children, as early as possible, to understand and recognize disability as a social group.
It was in that connection that the #DrawDisability exhibition was hosted as a side-event of the panel discussion on ‘What Kind of Education Do We Need in a Culturally Pluralistic Society’ organized by the Jeanne Sauvé Foundationon Thursday, May 19, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The panel emphasized the role of education in creating a successful pluralistic society and it began by establishing the fundamental core of education, that being, it is not only a means to transfer skills, but a nation-building project. In addition, one panelist stressed, ‘Education should pursue the common good, but common good remains subjective. As such, by actively being prepared to engage in passionate conversation over what common good is, we may be able to better serve our younger generations’.
The #DrawDisability exhibition featured 25 drawings from #DrawDisability campaign. One of them was authored by Alaa Khalid Siddiqui from Saudi Arabia who emphasizes the importance of providing love and care for people with mental health disabilities.
During the exhibition, the event guests were asked to view the drawings of the children and to reflect on their messages and essence. One guest expressed, ‘Diversity is disability. And disability is dignity’. Another one said, ‘Disability should be integrated in the daily classroom lessons of children. In this way, they are exposed to the concept at a very young age’.
It is fulfilling to note that #DrawDisability continuously fulfills its purpose of providing a space for people and community to have a conversation about disability as an issue. In this context, #DrawDisability paved way to include ‘disability’ within the education and pluralism agenda. More still needs to be done. But at least, we have started the conversation and hope it will continue.
Rolando Jr is a teacher by profession. He holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Secondary Education and in Inclusive Education, respectively. He has experience working with learners with and without disabilities in regular classrooms in rural Philippines. Presently, Rolando Jr is the Inclusive Education Officer of UNICEF Kenya, where his work focuses on increasing the capacities of education stakeholders (especially the Ministry of Education) in developing, reviewing, and implementing policies inclusive to the needs of learners with disabilities.