Disability and education: We must break down “artificial and unnecessary barriers”

  • Date / 21 March 2014
Hannah Bock

IHEU representative Hannah Bock

During the UN Human Rights Council’s annual discussion on the human rights of persons with disabilities, IHEU representative Hannah Bock, raised the issue of inclusion.

Noting the universal right to education, as reinforced by a number of international conventions, she highlighted how inclusiveness in the classroom can combat discrimination against persons with disabilities. Hannah cited the example of Saarland in Germany as a positive case-study for good practice; where pupils with disabilities are taught alongside able-bodied pupils encouraging mutual understanding between them.

Hannah’s full statement follows below:

United Nations Human Rights Council, 25th Session (3rd – 28th March 2014)
Annual discussion on Human Rights of persons with disabilities 
Hannah Bock, International Representative for IHEU


Thank you Mr President.

We thank the High Commissioner and her Office, as well as the Taskforce (Accessibility at UN), for their significant efforts in improving accessibility here at the UN over the past year. Furthermore, I would like to welcome my elected home country, Switzerland, as a new member who signed up to UN CRPD, and to offer my support in the upcoming challenges surrounding inclusion.[1]

“The right to education is a universal right, recognised by international human rights law”[2], and is the key to progress and development. In her report, the High Commissioner said: “Inclusive education is socially important because it provides a sound platform for countering stigmatization and discrimination. A mixed learning environment that includes persons with disabilities allows their contributions to be valued, and prejudices and misconceptions to be progressively challenged and dismantled.”[3]

We would like therefore, to draw attention to the fact that inclusion is not a one-way-street, and suggest that the inclusion of people with impairments or physical disabilities in the mainstream schooling system is only a first step in this process. To achieve real inclusion, inclusion must apply to all: those with disabilities and those without.

According to Article 19 of UNCPD, people with a disability should be supported to live independently and to be included in the community. We welcome efforts by States like Finland, Norway, and Sweden to break down barriers[4]. In line with article 24, we urge states do more to ensure that persons with disabilities receive education in mainstream schools, and implement where necessary no-rejection clauses in their education policy. We note the recent case-study of Cambodia where sign language and braille are taught in mainstream schools to sensitize the able-bodied students as well as enabling the disabled.[5]

The idea of reducing discrimination is supported by the Plan of Action for the implementation of the UN CRPD[6]. Saarland in Germany, which took the first step towards inclusion year ago by including the education of able-bodies and disabled children, provides a positive case study in this area. I have seen children there searching for different means of communication and, in this way, breaking down the barriers. And more than that, disabled children with hearing were trying to learn sign language from deaf children because they were all under the same roof.

Ladies and Gentleman, Excellencies, part of the solution to breaking the artificial and unnecessary barriers between the able-bodied and those with disabilities is to give people, and especially children, the possibility of educating one another in their every-day lives.

Thank you.


[1]  http://www.humanrights.ch/de/Schweiz/Inneres/Gruppen/Behinderte/idart_8343-content.html

[2]  http://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ohchr.org%2FEN%2FHRBodies%2FHRC%2FRegular-Sessions%2FSession25%2FDocuments%2FAnnualinteractivepersonswithdisabilities.doc

[3]  A/HRC/25/29, §8

[4] A/HRC/25/28 III ff

[5] A/HRC/25/28 V, No. 65; http://www.eine-schule-fuer-alle.info/downloads/13-62-439/KStA_Bericht_Geb%C3%A4rdensprachprojekt_10-01-09.pdf

[6] http://www.saarland.de/dokumente/thema_soziales/Aktionsplan_Web.pdf

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