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American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf People Around the World: Educational and Social Perspectives

Donald F. Moores and
Margery S. Miller, Editors

Part 5: International Developments

Inclusion in an International Context

Merv Hyde

The word inclusion in an educational context is itself somewhat of a paradox. It is frequently confounded by our concepts of earlier processes such as mainstreaming and integration. Although authors may disagree on the exact definition of each term and the distinctions among them, the following explanations reflect this writer’s understanding of the consensus among most definitions:

  • Mainstreaming was essentially a term that originated in the United States under legal challenges for the rights of minority groups and was regulated by the 1975 Public Law 94-142 and its reauthorization in 1997 and 2004. Mainstreaming was concerned with the placement of children with disabilities in a regular school setting. The term was influential and was adopted with various interpretations by other countries, many of which do not have the constitutional rights underpinning the original U.S. impetus for the mainstreaming movement.
  • Integration implies that disabled people need to be integrated into mainstream society, but they, rather than society or a school system, are required to undergo more change. Definitions frequently consider the level or degree of academic, social, or personal integration that an individual may achieve and the circumstances that are required. Processes of identification, assessment, ascertainment, and reviews of the integration of children with a disability are typically found in associated education policy and practice.
  • In contrast, inclusion takes as its starting point the fact that a just state of affairs is one in which people with a disability or difference are included in society and, in particular, in education. The required policy responses are broad and include a comprehensive focus on conditions for accepting individuals and groups and supporting the participation of children with a disability or difference in schools and their communities (Foreman, 2005).
Some Theory and a Framework

Inclusion is a term and a process that is relative in its interpretations and applications. The relativities involve the various historical, cultural, and pedagogical traditions; social structures; medical and technical resource availability; and the political, legal, and policy frameworks and economic priorities that a country embraces or within which an education system or school operates (Foster et al., 2003; Hyde, Ohna, & Hjulstad, 2006).

Inclusion may be seen as both a process of access, with associated considerations of the conditions for participation of students, and as a process of change in terms of the development of policy, practices, and attitudes. It is a concept that is deeply rooted in the philosophical and pedagogical traditions that we choose to express. The educational systems that we develop or elaborate may be characterized, more or less, by a cycle of differentiation and uniformity (Vislie, 2003; Wagner, 1994).


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