- Inclusive Education—A Sustainable Approach?
This article is excerpted from Jokinen, M. (2016). Inclusive education—A sustainable approach? In G. A. M. De Clerck & P. V. Paul (Eds.), Sign language, sustainable development, and equal opportunities (pp. 105–117). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Full and Equal Participation Through Learning Life and Social Skills
Full participation is one of the general principles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD) for enabling the enjoyment of human rights. This concept cuts across all issues in the Convention, and is a specific obligation of states/parties that have ratified the Convention document. Other general principles relevant to the education of deaf persons are respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for their right to preserve their identities. The latter is related to the linguistic and cultural identity of the deaf community stated in Articles 24(2)(b) and 30(4). Both principles are essential to full enjoyment of human rights by deaf students in educational contexts.
According to Article 24, on education, learning life and social development skills facilitates full and equal participation of persons with disabilities.
With respect to deaf students, facilitating the learning of a sign language, promoting the linguistic identity of the deaf community, and ensuring that education is delivered in the most appropriate languages are the measures adopted by the ratified states to enable full and equal participation. The states must also take appropriate measures to employ teachers who are qualified, at least in the use of a sign language.
These measures reflect culture-sensitive approaches to guiding students in learning skills that match their personalities, needs, and ways to live as deaf persons. This is part of the CRPD's recognition of the diversity of persons with disabilities and that these individuals can and do contribute to human, social, and economic development.
Using and learning sign language with and from proficient teachers provides a foundation for balanced personal, academic, and social development. Enabling deaf students to participate fully in all learning processes and respecting their linguistic and cultural identities require that educators and professionals examine possible factors in successful inclusive education based on needs of deaf students.
Deaf People: A Linguistic and Cultural Group
Article 24 is connected to Article 2 regarding definitions of the language and communication used in the CRPD. It is the first treaty to consider sign languages as equal to spoken languages, and thus recognizes sign languages as languages in their own right. Another important link is to Article 9, on accessibility, where it is stated that states/parties shall take measures to provide professional sign language interpreters. [End Page 70] Article 21, on freedom of expression and opinion and access to information, includes recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages. Article 30, on participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure, and sport, includes the state's obligation to recognize and support the specific cultural and linguistic identity of persons with disabilities, including sign languages and deaf culture. A perspective on deaf people as a linguistic and cultural group is strengthened through these articles (CRPD, n.d.; Kauppinen & Jokinen, 2014). This perspective should be kept in mind when one develops programs for the education of deaf people that strengthen their educational rights.
There is a traditional position that only individual rights are recognized in international law, whereas linguistic rights have been perceived as having a more collective nature. For example, the development of legally binding treaties such as the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has shown a shift toward acceptance in political and legal terms of the linguistic rights (of minorities) to education (de Varennes, cited in Phillipson, 2000). Further in-depth analysis of the minority and human rights status of deaf people from the linguistic and cultural rights perspective in relation to the CRPD and other treaties is needed to gain a better understanding of what the linguistic and cultural rights of deaf students mean in an educational context. The World Federation of the Deaf used the linguistic rights perspective and arguments during negotiations of the...