Barriers, rights and advocacy

Many families expect that inclusion should just happen because it is the right thing to do, but this is not usually true.

A high quality inclusive education is usually achieved by a commitment to working collaboratively with the school, but also, at times, through determined advocacy to protect a child’s right to an inclusive education.

It is helpful for families to understand the barriers to inclusion, keep developing their advocacy skills (including learning from experienced family advocates), and become knowledgeable about policies and legislation.

  1. Becoming a Better Advocate: Learning from other Advocates
  2. Becoming a Better Advocate: Guides to Advocacy
  3. Barriers to Inclusion
  4. Rights and Legislation

Becoming a Better Advocate:
Learning from other Advocates

Video

Why Inclusion?

Community Resource Unit Ltd.

Queensland parents describe why they chose inclusion for their children with disability.

Video

Advocacy learnings

Community Resource Unit Ltd.

In this video, some brave parents describe what they have learned from their mistakes and successes in advocating for an inclusive education for their children with disability.  They share valuable advice to current and future parent advocates.

Website

Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education (QCIE)

Queensland parents can connect with other families of children with disability pursuing an inclusive education for their children, through the Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education (QCIE)

Click here to learn more about QCIE Opens in newwindow

QCIE facilitates a peer support network that holds events like coffee mornings across Queensland - Find a group near you Opens in new window.

QCIE also facilitates the private Facebook group the QCIE Peer Support Network Opens in new window.  As this is a private group you will need to request permission to access it.

Article

Lessons Learned From Our Journey Of Inclusive Education

Martin and Darcy Elks

"Inclusion is worth it (even with the struggles). Mary is now a confident young woman, moving in a positive direction, going through the day as her own person, working, socializing, and knowing how to conduct herself in many different situations and social contexts, willing to take risks— all the things we want from all our children.

Good luck, and may the wind be always at your back!"

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Article

Inclusive education: When research evidence is not enough!

Glenys Mann

"The research also tells us that having a child well included is not just a matter of knowing the evidence. The academic and community literature is full of stories of poorly implemented ‘inclusive education’, despite the research, and this is more likely for children with an intellectual disability who are still routinely directed to special schools.

Therefore, this article also reflects on why relying on academic evidence is not enough when seeking inclusion in a regular school and outlines other information and skills that parents might use in order to pursue inclusive lives for their children."

Download the article here (PDF)

Podcast

CRUcial Conversations:  Margaret and Jeremy Ward

Community Resource Unit Ltd.
Margaret and Jeremy Ward have been active members of the disability community in Queensland since the 1980’s. They have invested in collective family advocacy efforts and in developing their own leadership skills and the skills of others.

In this story they share the personal struggle for their daughter Mena to attend the local school alongside her peers. They describe the importance of clarifying their vision; learning about new ways of doing things and getting the right people around the table to help make it happen.

Video

What is important for families to know in regards to their rights in education

Family Advocacy

Article

Brave not perfect

Rachel George

"I’m proud of the tone I set—checking every detail, speaking my mind, and building working relationships...

I wasn’t prepared for feeling so mixed, but truly it is a preview of the next 15 years. The biggest takeaway is that my foremost challenge will be educating each team member individually, and in their own “language” about how and why inclusion is truly best practice. "

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Video

We all belong

Northwest Down Syndrome Association

We All Belong is a beautiful video of families involved in a US based family advocacy group. It is a documentary film exploring the issues of belonging and diversity in our classrooms but also demonstrates and explores parent advocacy in action, and the value in learning advocacy skills.

It includes gems for preparing for an IEP meeting with advice such as: "Never write a goal that a dead person can meet"!

Good advocacy requires persistence and fidelity. 

It helps to think about your bottom lines and the life your son or daughter deserves.  By developing a mindset that insists on a rich included life, you can stand strong for what your child deserves.

Video

Advocating for Children: Tips from a School Superintendent

Understood.org

This clip highlights the value of persistence and connecting with other families for change and sustainability of advocacy efforts

Article

The Virtue of Stubborn

Lisa Bridle

"From the onset, his Dad and I have been determined that his life will not be defined by his disability. We have stubbornly resisted the low expectations and special path reserved for people with disability. We have been unwavering and obstinate that Sean would get a life as ordinary as possible, be recognised for his gifts not his challenges and that, if necessary, we would fight for his inclusion in the mainstream of community life.

Equally Sean has persistently demonstrated his determination to be at the centre not the margins – and to make a place for himself in the world, even in places where he is not immediately welcomed."

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Knowing your own vulnerabilities

This is important in being effective over the long-term.  Self-doubts as an advocate are natural and while they can help you think about how to improve your advocacy skills, it’s important that these natural self-doubts do not overwhelm or paralyse you.

Video

Second-Guessing Yourself as a Parent

Understood.org

Video

Inclusive Education Forum

Loren Swancutt

This presentation explores and unpacks school-level design, implementation and leadership processes that support the realisation of inclusive schooling. The Insightful steps and strategies are backed by the real-life applications and experiences of Thuringowa State High School – a Queensland State High School that disbanded its segregated Special Education Program in 2015, and has been successfully educating all students in age-appropriate, heterogeneous classrooms ever since.

If the video is not working, please click here Opens in new window

Article

Video

Bringing Down the Fence

Imagine More

While it is legitimate and ordinary for parents to advocate for their children, it is also helpful for young people with disability to build their advocacy skills, and it is helpful to have allies in school systems.  In this presentation Loren Swancutt explores and unpacks school-level design, implementation and leadership processes that support the realisation of inclusive schooling.

These insightful steps and strategies are backed by the real-life applications and experiences of Thuringowa State High School – a Queensland State High School that disbanded its segregated Special Education Program in 2015, and has been successfully educating all students in age-appropriate, heterogeneous classrooms ever since.

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

“I never enjoyed school until I was given the opportunity to be myself alongside everyone else. I used to think that I wasn’t capable of what they were capable of. I now know that I matter, and that I can do the same things that all kids my age do.

Yes, I am different, but I am not so different that I need to be kept separate or hidden. Inclusion at Thuringowa makes me beyond happy – I am equal, I am smart and I now have choice”

Student at Thuringowa State High School

Becoming a Better Advocate: Guides to Advocacy

Things are not always what they seem – think twice or more when choosing between your well-thought out desire for inclusion and offers that may knock your son or daughter off the path to an inclusive life with possibilities and promise.

I choose inclusion - Queensland Parents of People with Disability (QPPD)

Fact Sheets

Advocacy and meetings

Community Resource Unit Ltd.

The cover of factsheet 7 - being an effective advocate. It has three images of children with disability happy in their local school with their friends who do not appear to have disability

Download the Factsheet here (PDF)

Dealing with myths and barriers

Community Resource Unit Ltd.

The cover of factsheet 8 - dealing with myths and barriers. It has a young man with disability in his school uniform playing sport on an oval with his peers at school

Download the Factsheet here (PDF)

Guide

I Choose Inclusion

Queensland Parents of People with Disability (QPPD), updated by Community Resource Unit Ltd in 2020

"Parents seeking inclusion need quality information and support to be effective in this goal and we hope that this booklet will inform, encourage and inspire you.

In this booklet, you will read that sometimes achieving inclusion can be a challenge, but we hope you will not be deterred from choosing inclusion."

Everyone can become a better advocate and this booklet will help you develop your advocacy knowledge and skills.

Download the guide here (PDF)

Many families have found it invaluable to be prepared and forewarned about some common statements made by schools.  The following documents were produced by Queensland parents to help other families to be more prepared for tricky conversations with their child’s school, and for formal meetings.

Directory

Education Propaganda Directory

Queensland Parents of People with Disability (QPPD)

Many families have found it invaluable to be prepared and forewarned about some common statements made by schools.  The following documents were produced by Queensland parents to help other families to be more prepared for tricky conversations with their child’s school, and for formal meetings.

Download the directory here (PDF)

Guide

School Meetings.  Are you prepared?

Queensland Parents of People with Disability (QPPD)

Meetings are a constant feature of school life for parents of students with disability. Being prepared for meetings is critical for family advocates.

Download the guide here (PDF)

Booklets

Pocket Guide to Advocacy

Alberta Association for Community Living (AACL)

The Alberta Association for Community LivingOpens in new window in Canada has put together a Pocket Guide to Advocacy to support and provide families advice on the role families have as advocates for the family member with disability

Download the booklet here (PDF)

Advocacy:  Tools and Tips

Family Advocacy

Download the booklet here (PDF)

Most parents believe if they are rational and logical, compromising here and there, the system will be considerate and responsive. This is rarely true. Little is gained by compromises in comparison to what is gained by being firm, clear and holding your ground. Keep your eyes on what needs to be done and try not to be distracted by the roadblocks that might be put in your way.

Bruce Uditsky and Anne Hughson

Article

Mobilise!

Joyce Mitchell

"An assertive person is a strong person.  Parents of disabled children need to train themselves to be more assertive than other parents in order to cope with and master the added stress of daily life. 

Assertive behaviour gives you the strength you need to take on the world, while non-assertive or aggressive behaviour creates barriers to effective action"

Download the article here (PDF)

Guide

Achieving Inclusion:  What every parent should know when advocating for their child

Julie Causton-Theoharis and Christi Kasa

This is a helpful resource (please note the legislation here is from the US, not Australia).

"As members of the IEP team, parents play a key role in advocating for the needs of their child.

They need to be “informed decision-makers” and fully participate in the planning process. What follows is a list of strategies to try when advocating for inclusion. "

Download the guide here (PDF)

Barriers to Inclusion

Advocacy sharpens your capacity to critically view what is just and unjust within our communities and what must be done to foster needed social change

Family Advocacy

Inclusive education is backed by more than 50 years of research, is a human right confirmed by the UNCRPD, has the backing of law and policy, and is of benefit to all, including a foundation for an inclusive society.

Unfortunately this does not translate to being automatically available, and many individuals and families find they must advocate skilfully and persistently in order to secure inclusive education.  It is helpful to understand and be prepared for the systemic barriers to full inclusion.

Report

Time for change: The state of play for inclusion of students with disability

The logo of Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA).  Pronounced cider

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA)

The results from the 2019 CYDA National Education Survey.

CYDA conducted a National Education Survey between August and September 2019 to provide important information on the experience of children and young people with disability in their school education. There were 505 young people with disability and families and caregivers of children with disability who responded to the survey.

Click here to read the report Opens in new window

Report

Time for change: The state of play for inclusion of students with disability

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA)

This evidence review by Dr Kathy Cologon from Macquarie University provides an extensive systematic literature review of inclusive education.

It examines evidence across six decades and incorporates more than 400 research papers, relevant treaties and reports, to further explore the existing barriers and the possibilities for addressing these to bring about the realisation of inclusive education.

The cover of the report:  Towards Inclusive Education:  A necessary process of transformation

Click here to read the report Opens in new window

Video

Disabling Segregation

Dan Habib

Photo-journalist and disability-rights advocate, Dan Habib, explains his family's fight to ensure an inclusive education for Samuel, and how inclusion benefits not just Samuel and those who are included, but all of us.

Article

Recognition of Unconscious Prejudice as a Barrier to Inclusion of Students With Disability

Catia Malaquias

"Changing school culture to a more inclusive culture – to a culture more welcoming of students with disability – involves both modifying conscious cultural prejudice and increasing awareness of unconscious or implicit cultural bias and prejudice in school staff and the broader school community."

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Article

I Shouldn’t Have to Fight for My Daughter With a Disability to Be Considered by Educators

Ellen Stumbo

"But this brought up a much greater question, how many times did my child sit through a class unaware of all instructions given? How much did she miss? And more important, how often did teachers fail to communicate effectively with her? How often was she completely ignored?

Allowing her in a classroom is not the same as inclusion. Not even close. Inclusion means you do everything you can to make sure every single student can participate. And you cannot participate if you do not understand or know what is happening."

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Rights and Legislation

When advocating for school inclusion, it is helpful to be familiar with the policies and legislation which you can draw on in your advocacy.  At the same time, where possible you should ensure you do not escalate to legal complaints without exhausting other points of influence.  There may be some access to formal (paid) advocacy, though this is limited.

Legislation

Disability Discrimination Act 1992

Provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability.

Click here to read the act Opens in new window

Disability Standards for Education 2005

National standards that set out the obligations of education and training providers and seeks to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students.

Click here to read the standards Opens in new window

Convention

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006

An international human rights treaty intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

The United Nations has clarified the right to inclusive education in General Comment no 4.

Click here to read the convention Opens in new window

Article

UN Committee Clarifies Right to Inclusive Education

Catia Malaquias

Click here to read the full article Opens in new window

Website

Video

2017 QUT Inclusive Education Forum – What do we need to DO to make inclusion happen?

Various presenters

On Wednesday 6 September 2017, Student Engagement, Learning and Behaviour (#SELB) Opens in new window at QUT hosted an Inclusive Education Forum in partnership with Community Resource Unit Ltd., All Means All Opens in new window, and the Queensland Department of Education and Training Opens in new window.

Click here to view the presentations Opens in new window

Website

How do I Make a Complaint?

Queensland Government, Department of Education

"A customer complaint involves an expression of dissatisfaction about the service or action of the department, or its staff, when the customer is directly affected by the service or action.

For more information about what is and is not a customer complaint, see our Customer complaints management framework"

Click here to see the Department of Education's Complaint Policy Opens in new window

Website

Right to Education

Queensland Human Rights Commission

The Queensland Human Rights Commission  (QHRC) is an independent statutory body which has jurisdiction over both the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 and Human Rights Act 2019.

You can contact the QHRC with complaints of discrimination, victimisation and other breaches of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, and complaints under the Human Rights Act 2019.

Click here to visit the QHRC website Opens in new window

Click here to visit the QHRC webpage:  Your Rights - Discrimination in Education Opens in new window

Website

Australian Human Rights Commission

This is the Government body overseeing the application of federal legislation in the area of human rights and anti-discrimination. The Human Rights Commission investigates and conciliates complaints about discrimination and breaches of human rights.

Click here to visit the website Opens in new window

Website

Find an Advocate

Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA)

This website lists advocacy agencies in Australia and includes a brief explanation of the different approaches to advocacy.

Click here to visit the website Opens in new window

Video

What is the right to education?

Queensland Human Rights Commission

Professor Tamara Walsh, TC Bierne of Law, University of Queensland.

Website

Education Advocacy Service

Queensland Advocacy Incorporated

QAI’s Education Advocacy Service (EAS) is an independent, professional advocacy service which supports the resolution of complex and escalated complaints relating to the access, participation and/or achievement of students with disability in Queensland state schools (and home schooling). The service is provided at no cost and is available to state school students and families across Queensland.

Click here to visit the website Opens in new window

This project is proudly supported by the Queensland Government through the Department of Education.

The Department of Education website outlines its commitment to Inclusive education through its inclusive education policy.

 

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