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H810 – Legislation (A5.1)

October 2, 2010

One thing is for sure, my knowledge about legislations are quite limited, but the whole topic 5 and the subsequent forum discussions, though for me more a reading than a discussion, helped me to get a better insight into that topic and definitely raised my awareness to pay greater attention to it.

Similar to you a student in my tutor group do I ask myself where are all the disabled people? Is it like you question a shame or an accessibility issue? I think it is a mixture of both and that does not shed a good light on us non-disabled people. Do we give these people the feeling that they need to be ashamed? I think the medical model still dominates too much, pushing the problem towards the disabled people instead of seeing that actually society hinders the full participation and engagement of disabled people.

Another student said  ‘that it ‘appear that institutions adopt frameworks based around legislation but it often appears to be in order to tick boxes’. Exploring accessibility issues on my two old schools I would say they do not even tick boxes, although Germany has signed and ratified similar to the UK the UN convention. Here is one example that does not shed a good light on my current and previous school.

About 15 years ago one of our students had an accident resulting in physical impairment. We never really heard anything from her, but I often thought about what would have been when she would have insisted coming back. Though we had an elevator, did we not offer and still do not offer an accessible toilette and the whole school environment was not really accessible. In my new school accessibility is still a borrowed word. There a plenty of physical barriers for those with physical impairments and e.g. our school website lack alternative text descriptions to images and does not provide any text equivalents. Thus the introduction of standards, guidelines and legislation is often pure rhetoric, but has not led to significant improvements in accessibility. What about the equal right, level playing fields?!

Interestingly the US only signed the convention, but I have the feeling they taking it still a lot more serious as Germany. Their campaign ‘No child is left behind’ is pretty impressive and I had the luck to have a closer look into their school system and found it pretty impressive how they include and support students with disabilities into mainstream classrooms. Here in Germany the focus is far to less on inclusion but more on exclusion. Parents still have to fight for their children’s right to visit a ‘regular’ school and the main argument put forward is how much better a separate class, solely for disabled students would be to take care of the needs of their child.

I think the main point here in Germany is to raise disability awareness, to make disabled people more visible, but not ‘extra visible’ in a negative way. In resource 2 Paul stated: ‘Disability issues are not problems, they’re challenges’ and I think this is the way we should view it.

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