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Knowledge Café recap: Inclusive education and quality of life for students with disabilities

A chlid with Down syndrome and two classmates playing on the floor in a school

Last October’s Knowledge Café focused on inclusive education and the quality of life for students with intellectual disabilities.

On Wednesday 26 October, EASPD organised a Knowledge Café session dedicated to “Education and quality of life for student with disabilities”. The event was centred around innovative initiatives in the field of inclusive education, presenting tools to measure the impact of inclusive education in the quality of life of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

What does quality of life mean exactly?

Quality of Life (QoL) is determined by several domains such as personal development, self-determination, enjoyment of rights among others, and these can all be translated into indicators. This would enable QoL to be assessed, and make it possible to obtain a measure of personal wellbeing. QoL index was applied to inclusive education in the framework of the IE + Project “Promoting positive attitudes and evidence-based policy for inclusive education.”

Our recently published Quality of Life Index for Inclusive Education (QoLI-IE) can be used to monitor the extent to which each school’s cultures, policies, and practices are focused on meeting the aspirations and needs of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The event

The online event, moderated by Plena Inclusion,began with a talk by Tete el Azhari (Plena Inclusion),who shared his first-hand experience in mainstream schooling during the latter years of primary school. He emphasised the positive impact this had in his life, especially in terms of the friendships he made with other students, as well as the supportive and inclusive school environment. This session was followed by experts on education and social inclusion giving an overview of how inclusive education is in Europe.

M. Amor González (University of Salamanca) then presented a study coordinated by EASPD and undertaken by the Salamanca University INICO department, and developed and tested in Spain. It provides tools for the scaling up of the Quality of Life Index for Inclusive Education, which measures the impact of inclusive education on the quality of life of students with intellectual disabilities.

He highlighted that, although inclusive education is a right that is included in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we still need conceptual frameworks to help education systems become more accessible. One of these frameworks is the quality of life model by Shalock and Verdugo, which focuses on the relation between inclusive education and quality of life (QoL).

Sonia Ahehinnou (UNAPEI)shared the “J’ai pas école” campaign, which sheds light on the structural exclusion of persons with disabilities from education in France. She stressed that statistics and the political discourse are not representative of the reality and quality of education in the country, leading to the exclusion of students with IDD. Therefore, UNAPEI's 2022 strategy consists of three main goals: to register pupils and students in the Ministry of Education's database, to increase the number of trained and specialised teachers, and to enable social services intervention in schools.

The “J’ai pas école” campaign includes initiatives like collecting testimonies and surveys from families and schools to better understand the barriers students with disabilities face. The campaign also develops a dashboard and a digital platform as support tools, which can either provide testimonies or, for professionals, complete the indicators, generating more data and more truthful measurements of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in education.

Helen Portal (Inclusion Europe) gave an overview of the state of inclusive education, or rather the lack of it, across Europe. She highlighted how factors such as misguided policies and ineffective implementation of the law are behind the lack of inclusive education. She also mentioned some positive achievements for inclusive education, such as the development of a strong legal framework (for example, the European Disability Strategy), and the launching of research projects on inclusive education. The speaker concluded by sharing some suggestions for the future, such as moving from good practices to structural changes, as well as the importance of the choice of language and of strengthening alliances.

After these discussions, some key points emerged, such as the importance of language and of its accessibility to improve opportunities for persons with disabilities, so that they can participate in their communities. Moreover, it has been underlined that inclusion has to apply to lifelong learning, including vocational education and training, in order to guarantee a truly accessible and inclusive social life for everyone.


To access the Quality of Life Index for Inclusive Education please visit the publications webpage.