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The term disability has been used for quite some time to refer to and/or to marginalize a diverse group of individuals. This term is used in classrooms, on social media, and in everyday discussion. The word disabled is often used to describe a person who has physical impairments, cognitive challenges, and/or someone who struggles with their mental health. But how aware are teachers, parents and the media of the perspectives of people living with (dis)abilities and the perspective that they are not the (dis)abled ones, or the ones who are in need of help but rather that society and its perspectives are the ones who are missing or lacking something.

The deficit perspective on (dis)ability identifies all the things that people with (dis)abilities are not able to do. Using a cultural perspective, the word (dis)ability can have many other cultural meanings or definitions and not just one. The sociological perspective comes closest to the perspective that how we label people might be biased and that how we view differences may be what creates the perception of a (dis)ability.

Children and adults who have been identified as living with a (dis)ability have experiences and expertise to share. If we aim to create a classroom that strives for inclusiveness, why not start at practicing equity and listening to the voices of people whose views and perspectives have been marginalized?


People see a person in a wheelchair and at once think that there’s something wrong with him. I’ll tell you a story that you won’t believe. One day someone from the municipality came in here looking for Zofran the secretary. I told her that I was the secretary here and asked if I could help her.

She ignored me and went to Tami to ask her. She thought that I was wrong in the head or something. I told her, “What, you don’t think a man in a wheelchair can tell you the truth?”


But by now I’m used to this attitude and sometimes I make good use of it. For example, when I go to the Town Hall I start yelling straight away. I don’t care if they think I’m a nutcase. The main thing is that they give me what I want right away. (APA)

  1. How might you feel if you were in Zofran’s shoes?
  2. Why do you think the person went to Tami instead of Zofran?
  3. What are your thoughts on Zofran’s reaction and the way he handled his (dis)ability

People with (dis)abilities often have to deal with people assuming they are not capable of doing things and in some cases, with people asking them, “How did it happen?” Persons with (dis)abilities often find this question to be the least favourable one among other questions because for many reasons, but the main reason is because it implies that something is wrong with them.

If a child in your class with a (dis)ability told you that they do not feel included/welcomed in the classroom, because all the other students see and treat them as if they were different, how would you respond? Discuss or record your answers to the questions below:
  1. How would you respond to the student?
  2. Would you address the situation with the class? If so, how? What points for discussion might you raise?
  3. How might you help your students contribute to an inclusive classroom environment?

People with disabilities have been one of the most marginalized groups in Western societies (Agmon, Sa’ar & Araten-Bergman, 2016). In many parts of the world people who are viewed as disabled are deprived of education and employment opportunities (Masango, 2018).


Studies have shown that worldwide, 20 percent of the population has a disability (Smith, 2017). Imagine how many children are included in this statistic? And how many of them might be in your classroom; or have been in your classroom, or your colleagues’ classrooms. Imagine how that child would feel if they were to hear or feel that their teacher rejected them due to fear? It is also important to realize that anyone from any walk of society, background, and life experience can be or become disabled.


Take a few moments to examine the following perspectives of some older folks with (dis)abilities, compared to that of the younger ones in school. This examination is necessary for teachers especially because it helps them become aware of some of the issues faced by students. It is also necessary because of its nature, given that these statements can potentially be made by former students they have had, or students that are currently in their class.


Older Folks with Disabilities

“They think that we can’t do anything because we’re handicapped. They hand everything to us, and if I go near the hot kettle they start shouting straight off as if I were a three-year-old. At home I make myself coffee without any problem. I can be on my own for hours sometimes. But here they leap up to do things for me.” Yishai (Agmon, Sa’ar & Araten-Bergman, 2016)

“We’re treated worse than a farm animal going to the slaughterhouse. I’d like to feel like I was part of society and I just feel like I’m not even being given that opportunity to try and contribute in some way.” Alex (The Guardian, 2017).

“I don’t believe that I’m a burden, I don’t believe that I’m inconvenient. It is assumed that we are not in control of our body; that is absolutely nonsense.” Ryan Haddad (VICE, 2018)

“I have a disability and I am ok with that. Don’t make assumptions about what I can and cannot do. People try to help me without asking first.” Emily Ladau (VICE, 2018)

“I love having Tourette’s, I love that I am 4’7, I love my obsessive-compulsive disorder.” Pamela (BuzzFeedVideo, 2018)

“It took me a while to call myself a person with a disability but I’m a person first, being an amputee is secondary.” Eman (BuzzFeedVideo, 2018)

Older folks with (dis) abilities experience some level of frustration that surrounds their views of how others see them. Clearly, they believe that despite their (dis)ability, they are able to accomplish a variety of tasks independently.

Now just by looking at the perspectives of the older folks, some may ask themselves “What does this have to do with the International classroom?” In fact, it may not seem so at the moment, but it actually has a lot to do with the international environment.

Take a parent-teacher conference for example; What are the odds that a student in your classroom has a parent or guardian with (dis)abilities? How would they be able to access the information given? Are the facilities contributing to an international environment? All of these are valid points to consider and ask ourselves as teachers. In an inclusive environment, teachers are responsible for supporting and nurturing students into becoming equitable, responsible, empowered, and successful individuals in society. Through holistic and inclusive practices, students learn to make society a better place by treating everyone with dignity. Furthermore, if we all learn to contribute to an inclusive classroom and society, the experiences for people with (dis)abilities, could be different.


Students with Disabilities

“My brain may be different from yours, but it’s still amazing.” (brainhighways, 2015)

“I know it doesn’t always seem like it but I really do want to learn and listen, it’s just my brain is kind of different.” (brainhighways, 2015)

“I have to move, or I really can’t pay attention.” (brainhighways, 2015)

“It makes me feel sad when you tell me to try harder, even though I’ve already tried as hard as I can.” (brainhighways, 2015)

“It’s really hard, it makes me feel stupid, it makes us feel that way.” Marcus

“I don’t always hear what the teacher is saying, especially if they don’t talk loud enough or are soft spoken; it becomes difficult.” Matt (Peterson, 2012)

“I have a reading disability and it makes it hard sometimes in classes.” Luke (Peterson, 2012)

“I can’t navigate by myself and I like to be independent. It gives me a feeling of pride.” Jordan (Smith, 2012)

“It’s kind of hard to be required to do something and not be able to do it, and have to find somebody to come and help me do it on time.” Brandi (Smith, 2012)

The students’ perspectives above are more hopeful than that of the older folks. In these videos from brain highways, children are reaching out to teachers to let them know how they feel and how they want to be treated with dignity and respect.

Teachers are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe, welcoming and learning environment for their students. We ought to foster an inclusive environment that promotes growth and equity. In order to do so, there are many things teachers can do, including, according to Soika (n.d) are:

  • accommodating learning styles and (dis)abilities
  • being dynamic with the classroom spaces
  • reducing race and gender barriers to learning
  • being mindful of how they use technology in the classroom
  • holding high expectations for all your students and providing them with tasks that are engaging and of students’ high interests.

Through these actions, we can help students develop and build their sense of self-efficacy, increase their confidence and improve their academic performance. In addition to raising your expectations for students, it is crucial to provide the support they may need along with it. To merely increase expectations without helping students achieve success almost always leads to frustration and failure (Williamson & Blackburn, 2010).

It is important we understand that the role we play in shaping each others’ development, opportunities, dignity and self-respect. The way we categorize and label each other can have a huge impact on the learning and lives of our students. In an inclusive classroom each student must feel welcomed, valued and appreciated.

Key Takeaways

  • Now that you have finished reading the above perspective on (dis)ability, has anything changed relating to how you first felt about persons with (dis)abilities?
  • Perhaps, after illustrating your inclusive classroom in the pre-activity above, your views have changed. On a blank piece of paper, draw, sketch, or outline your re-imagined inclusive classroom taking the reading into consideratio


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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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