Increasing Inclusive Capability


What restricts the participation and learning of all children and young people and what action can be taken?

UNICEF (2013) describes participation as: ‘an ongoing process of children’s expression and active involvement in decision-making at different levels in matters that concern them, requiring information-sharing and dialogue between children/adolescents and adults based on mutual respect, and requiring that full consideration of their views be given, taking into account the child’s age and maturity’. (Take Us Seriously, page 7)

In education – and during the learning process – there may be many barriers or circumstances that restrict the full participation of learners. Many learners will have different requirements (short and longer term) that may require consideration to enable them to take part in all activities and gain full benefit from the opportunities on offer.

Full and active participation may be affected by negative attitudes and deficit thinking, physical barriers, poor access to communication aids and appropriate information in accessible formats or a lack of confidence and/or training in the skills necessary to take part. 

Agency work on participation stresses that being physically present is not enough – learners need to be continually and meaningfully involved in relevant activities (in terms of social, developmental and educational goals) that are comparable to those engaged in by their peers.

The issues raised above need to be addressed by re-framing thinking, reflecting on practice and most importantly listening to the voices of learners and their families to support universal design that will benefit all learners.


Organisation of Provision Literature Review

Pages 40-46 of the literature review discuss the support needed to enable learners to participate in the classroom.

Organisation of Provision Summary Report (available in 22 languages)

This project report (pages 14-16) summarises information on teaching approaches, curriculum and assessment and organisation of support.

Watch this video from the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation project in the USA showing how staff work together for full participation of all learners.

SWIFT IN 60 video: Fully Integrated Organisational Structure  

picture of a question mark within a circleTalking Point - supporting participation

Consider the effectiveness of the following strategies in supporting participation in your own context:

  • Inclusive teaching and learning approaches
  • Curriculum plans
  • The assessment process
  • Use of Learning Support Assistants
  • Individual Education Plans

With regard to the effective use of Learning Support Assistants, further evidence-based guidance can be found here

UNICEF: Take us seriously

This report considers what is meant by participation and how it can be made to work for children with disabilities

picture of a question mark within a circleTalking Point - barriers to participation

  • Read page 11 - Key barriers affecting participation.
  • Consider the extent to which these barriers exist in your own context. What action might be taken to reduce such barriers?
  • Read page 17, pages 21-23 and pages 39-41. Draft a statement explaining what are you trying to achieve through full participation of all learners. What evidence do you have that participation is meaningful in your situation? How do you know if the participation of children with disabilities is effective? (See also question below on reasonable adjustments and questions on increasing participation in the yellow section of this resource)

Implementing Inclusive Education - A Commonwealth Guide to Implementing Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

picture of a question mark within a circleTalking Point - reasonable adjustments

Read pages 271–274  - Removing barriers. Use the Reasonable Adjustments Checklist on page 264 to reflect on the strategies you currently use. What might be done to extend the range of approaches used in your context? (See also barriers to participation above and the questions on dealing with difference in the green section of this resource)

The Reasonable Adjustments project in the (UK England) provides video material to show how schools make adjustments to policies and practices in education and associated services for disabled learners. The duty applies to ALL staff and is anticipatory (not compensatory). This means that adjustments are in place before learners with particular requirements are present in school and recognises each learners right to attend and the need to remove barriers to participation and learning.

Accessible Information Provision for Lifelong Learning

The Agency i-access project report highlights that access to information is a fundamental right of every learner. As society increasingly relies on ICT, it is essential that information is provided in a way that ensures that everyone can participate on an equal basis. 

ICT for Inclusion

This project notes that ICT4I requires a new pedagogy that uses ICT to empower all learners to make  - and implement - decisions about their learning. The project report stresses the need for all policy makers and practitioners to adapt their ways of working to remove barriers and enable all learners to benefit from the opportunities that available, affordable and accessible ICT can offer.

picture of a question mark within a circleTalking Point - ICT for inclusion

The ICT4I Policy Monitoring Framework can be downloaded from the ICT for Inclusion link above and can be adapted to different country contexts. Consider the policy objectives listed and the actions to be monitored. How might these be adapted for use in your own context to monitor the use of ICT for inclusion? What gaps are priorities to be addressed?

The following practical examples may also be helpful:

Using ICT to support inclusion in Sweden on the IEA website

The collection of accessible information provision in practice provided by the i-accesss project can be downloaded here.

Additional References

Inclusive Education in Action

The following examples of practice provided by the Inclusive Education in Action web site can be used as the basis for discussion about strategies used to improve access to the learning process.

A blind student talks about his experience
Action research on reducing barriers to participation in Italy
Creating a school for all in Sweden
Developing an accessible school environment in Finland
Further practical examples from the Reasonable Adjustments project in the UK can be found here.

Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for creating inclusive, learner-friendly environments

Booklet 1 includes a self-review tool to assess your school environment and plan further development.
Booklet 3 discusses possible barriers to learning
Booklets 4 and 5 focus on creating and managing inclusive learning-friendly classrooms
Further information and practical tips are available in the specialised booklets – also accessible from the link above.

UNICEF webinars

10 - Access to School and the Learning Environment
11 - Universal Design for Learning
12 - Teachers, Inclusive Child-centred Teaching and Pedagogy

The above presentations (approx 30 minutes each) can be used as the basis for more detailed discussions on planning to provide full participation for all learners. These webinars and booklets are also referred to in the green question.