I participated in a training course to be a support teacher for children with disabilities in the city of Erbil. I was placed in a school and assigned to work with a child with autism. I found the behaviour of the child very challenging. Hearing about my situation, officials from the Ministry of Education came to visit our school. They spoke for a long time with me, the family, and the school leadership about the rights of this child. They also came to the classroom, gave practical advice, and promised follow-up visits and support. Realising the importance of my job, I persevered.
The student is now fully accepted in the school and making progress in the classroom. He has demonstrated a musical talent and even has a role in a music clip made to raise awareness of autism (http://bit.ly/1S41uF1). Now, even if you asked me to leave, I would do the job voluntarily.
Learn more about Iraqi-Kurdistan’s Inclusive Education Programme demonstrating that with the help of inclusive learning materials and staff training early intervention, Inclusive Education is possible within post-war instability and dire economic conditions.
I have been working as a counsellor for students with special needs since 2010. I see on a daily basis how many of my students now continue to university, because they have noticed that others have been able to succeed in that environment. It is a wonderful feeling to see the beam in their eyes thanks to their newly found dignity, sense of purpose, and independence when they realize that an academic life at a university is truly accessible to them. At awareness-raising events, I have met students, cloakroom staff, and even cleaning ladies who have come to me to say how great it is that there are so many disabled students studying at Tallinn University of Technology (TUT). I have seen students with neck injuries able to study alone, to live in dorms, and to put on clothes with the help of a motorized bed. They are happy, independent, and capable of pursuing their futures and careers as valuable members of society.
I suppose one has to have lived in a post-Soviet state to realise how remarkable it is that in such few years both the older and the younger generation have seen and welcomed so many changes as part of their everyday life. By providing funding to people with disabilities and by giving them a push to try something that had previously been considered unthinkable and too expensive, the Primus programme has achieved a lot: greater awareness, accessibility, and joy for disabled people.
On weekends I reflect on my weekly activities. While reminiscing, my thoughts turned to a particular student who had caught my attention. I had not realized how long I had been serving as a special educator at the Anglican Primary School till my encounter with a young boy who was using a hearing aid. He approached me and we had a bit of a conversation.
As I reminisced, in my mind’s eye I could see him as he shyly walked into class with his head low and his face expressionless. I remembered the confusion in his eyes and his state of utmost isolation because he could not hear well while I taught the day’s lessons. Gradually, I developed techniques to coax him out of his shell and to help him with his studies. My class became a virtual sea of pictures, as I used a lot more images to communicate. I recalled how I vehemently opposed the administrative decision to send him out of the school.
My insistence led to the admission of a few other students like him, and soon my class had become inclusive. Other teachers learned from my example and more children like Kofi had the chance to become educated. Today, he stands before me a beneficiary of Inclusive Education. He had come to express his gratitude after learning how instrumental I was in getting him an education at the fundamental level.
This is my first job! I feel very happy and satisfied because they have accepted me as I am. Prior to becoming a Loan Officer at BAC Credomatic I had been searching for work for many years, but no company would give me the opportunity to show my full potential because of my disability. My family has always been supportive, but life has not been shiny all the time. A few years ago I had to leave my university studies because I did not have enough money to cover the expenses. I felt very frustrated, but I never gave up. One day I applied for a job in a company that opened its doors to many unemployed persons with disabilities like me.
Since that day my life has changed a lot. Thanks to this opportunity, I was able to finalize my university degree in Accounting and to have sufficient economic stability to help my mother with the household expenses. Now I feel useful. Now I realize that I can manage many administrative tasks and can take on additional responsibilities because I have acquired new knowledge in the banking area. Now I see a future that before I never imagined. I see myself growing into new positions in the company, having new opportunities, and learning more every day. I hope my story can inspire more companies to believe in the potential of people with disabilities.
We have been gifted with two beautiful daughters: Sydney and Greer.
Sydney flew through the public school system from kindergarten through grade 12 in a relatively uneventful way, as did Greer. What’s exceptional about Greer’s experience is that she has Down Syndrome. Years ago, she never would have been afforded the opportunity to follow in her sister’s footsteps like many younger siblings dream to do. What’s even more exceptional is that Greer not only followed her sister’s footsteps in many regards, attending the same elementary and secondary schools, but she also paved her own path, participating in even more school activities than had her sister, and as such is today a capable, confident, and contributing member of our community. Because of New Brunswick’s Inclusive Education policy, Greer attended regular classes, received the necessary support, and participated fully in all school classes, activities, and clubs. In elementary school she participated in the drama and reading clubs and was acknowledged with a Bravery Award. Now in her final year of high school, she has:
Celebrated being a “Four Year Vet” in the annual high school musical production
Held leadership positions in the Best Buddies Programme
Developed lifelong friendships
Lived an ordinary life
Who could ask for more?
Many people who have taught Greer or had her in their clubs have commented on what she had added to the respective group and its dynamics. She has often been acknowledged for adding joy to the group, bringing people together and inspiring others to conquer challenges. We are thankful for Inclusive Education, which has enabled Greer to thrive rather than be marginalized as have many before her and many in other less progressive places.
“I am now playing with the Jazz band that I listened to in the audience!”
My name is Harry Hötzinger, and I am 35 years old and live in my own apartment in Vienna. I consider myself a cineaste, and I love music and travelling. Due to my physical challenges (I cannot move my head or limbs due to muscular dystrophy) I rely on my personal assistants to help me accomplish everyday tasks and activities. When I met the guys from the AsTeRICS Academy team at a jazz concert in Vienna in 2013, they asked me if I wanted to participate in the development of their special input devices, and I agreed. I was equipped with a “Lipmouse”-sensor which allows me to control a computer via lip movements and sip/puff actions. Since then I have been able to use my computer autonomously for reading or writing emails, browsing the web, playing games, and much more. I can also control my home entertainment equipment via infrared remote. In 2014 we developed the idea that I could learn how to play a computer-based musical instrument. An eye-tracker was added to my setup, which allows me efficient selection of notes or chords in a graphical user interface. The system worked so well that I started playing keyboards in a band – the same Jazz band that I listened to in the audience two years ago! Since early 2015 we have had three public concerts in Vienna and we have further developed the capabilities of the musical system. I want to share my story because this technology was a real game-changer for me.
The project seeks to develop a simple and effective method for children with diverse disabilities to express or communicate their life priorities and human rights issues through the use of ICT and other resources. The project also aims to achieve the transferability and scalability of this method, utilizing accessible ICT, by designing education activities and resources for governments, services providers, and community members both in the target country and globally.
More about the Innovative Project Giving a voice to children with disabilities:
Hoang Nguyen was born with limited eysight in a poor rural area in Vietnam. Today he works as a technician in a library in Ho Chi Minh City.
Hoang Nguyen was born into a poor family in a small village in Dong Nai province, Vietnam. A family of five, both Hoang and his father have limited eyesight. Hoang`s sight continued to worsen such that by the time he went to primary school he could not see the blackboard or read normal print textbooks. The Nhat Hong Centre supported him with eye care, scholarship, and low-vision aids so that he was able to study at the local ordinary primary and lower secondary schools. At age 15 Hoang had to move to the Nhat Hong Centre in Ho Chi Minh City to get additional support so that he could attend high school. There he began to study computer technology using Zoomtext software, which magnifies the screen in order to read and write, and he used closed-captioned TV and magnifiers for reading
After high school Hoang entered the Ton Duc Thang Technical University to study Information Technology. Although he faced many difficulties, with the assistance of technology devices, friends, and support teachers he earned a Bachelor’s degree in IT, and has since worked as a technician at the General Science Library in Ho Chi Minh City. Hoang has also gotten married, and today he is living happily and independently.
Heike Albrecht is studying in Munich/Germany and using a tablet and Verbavoice speeech-to-text-translation technology
On the tennis court, I know what to do. I focus on the ball, the ground underneath my feet, the movement of my hand, and the rush of the game. I always knew what I wanted – to play tennis – and so I did. There are always obstacles to face, of course: injuries and challenges, matches that can’t be won. But it’s up to me. It is my game. A lecture hall, however, is a completely different thing. I depend on other people giving me the information I need to succeed, depend on them to speak clearly and to look at me while talking. I depend on the fact that people understand what it means to be hard of hearing. When I finished secondary school, I was at a loss. Should I try attending university? Did I want to face this challenge? Would I make it? To follow lectures all day, in a big room with bad acoustics, too far away to lip-read? And how about all the loanwords and unknown expressions? How about the stories I knew about people dropping out of university, giving up their education and settling for the easier way just because they couldn’t perceive what was said and were tired of depending on the help of their fellow students? For hearing impaired people it is not just tiring but sometimes literally impossible to go to university without any assistance. Then I heard a presentation about speech-to-text reporters who type every word the professor says. I sat in a small room and listened to the idea of the VerbaVoice online platform and learned about speech-to-text reporters and sign language interpreters who work remotely. That’s when I decided to give it a try! I am now in my fifth semester at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich. Using my tablet I can follow each lecture by reading the live text – and I just need to scroll back if I missed something. This mobile solution makes me feel independent: I am flexible and the interpreter is not sitting next to me, but instead is somewhere else in Germany or even at the other end of the world! I am just like any other student using a computer or mobile device, and people hardly notice. Playing tennis is still my greatest passion. But when I started university, I knew that I could follow all kinds of dreams – sports, education, and a career.