Yet the presence of educators with disabilities in our schools and educational agencies appears to be small. Gilmore and her colleagues cite the results of a study by the President's Committee for Employment of the Handicapped (later called the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities) that found that "proportionately fewer disabled people choose a career in education than their able-bodied peers" (Gilmore, Merchant, and Moore 1980, 1). Also, assume a prevalence rate of individuals with disabilities at 10 percent or even 5 percent of the general population; most people's experiences with educators would not include encounters with or knowledge of educators with disabilities at such rates. The fact that actual prevalence rates are not known, that we must approach the question of how many educators have disabilities so tentatively and circumspectly, is perhaps telling. Statistics are routinely collected and reported on the age, experience, gender, and racial and ethnic composition of the teaching force in order to shape and drive policies on issues such as the future needs and diversification of the teaching profession. The apparent lack of information about the number of educators with disabilities means that we cannot take into account the needs of this group of teachers in our planning and actions.
Second, educators who have disabilities are important to our schools. They not only add a unique perspective or dimension of diversity to those responsible for carrying out education's missions but also contribute significantly to solutions to issues our schools face.
One such problem, for example, is the continuing deficit in trained special education personnel across our nation. Information from a recent annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act reported that for the 1991-92 school year, there was a need for 27,282 additional special education teachers nationally (U.S. Department of Education 1994). Also, 13,665 additional nonteaching staff, such as occupational therapists, work-study coordinators, physical therapists, and paraprofessionals were needed in the United States. More than twenty years after the passage of federal special education law, we still do not have sufficient personnel to implement appropriately the mandates of the law. Given the unemployment figures for individuals with disabilities, efforts to foster careers in education--particularly special education and related services--for people with disabilities could aid the efforts to find additional personnel. Care must be taken, though, not to "track" educators with disabilities solely into positions working with students with disabilities, just as we do not track teachers from racial and ethnic minority groups to teach only students from similar backgrounds.
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