Inclusive Learning for All: It’s a Right

Three outstretched arms of varying skin tones triumphantly holding up rolled diplomas, representing inclusive learning for all.

The fundamental right to equal education applies to all students. However, gaining access to it has proven difficult for many students with intellectual disability diagnoses navigating academic realms. The unequal learning experience of students with intellectual disabilities in education promotes inequality and negatively affects the education sector as a whole. There is a need to minimize barriers to equal participation in education, as students of all ages, genders, and education levels with cognitive disorders are subject to seclusion.

Exclusive education—excluding students from various aspects of education based on intellectual disabilities—adversely affects academic performance and behavioral patterns as these students are often segregated into separate classrooms, even isolated at times. They may spend hours using technology that is not aligned with their specific needs or be granted accommodations that do not satisfy those needs. Low academic performance tends to occur as a result, often leading to worsened behavioral patterns, which bring on the increased use of seclusion, according to Jennifer Connolly of Warwick Public Schools.1

Globally, intellectually disabled students enrolled in all areas of education are unfairly disadvantaged. Senior investigator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Marc Bornstein, reflects on the early 1970s as approximately two million students with disabilities were excluded from receiving an education in America and another three million disabled students did not receive an education that met their needs.2 Citing more current observations, Naomi Schreuer of the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Haifa states that in America approximately 17% of students in public higher education institutions and 36% of students in private higher educational institutions are disadvantaged due to disability.3 Additional research conducted by Schreuer shows that institutional concerns involving unfair disadvantages and academic integrity negatively affect the adequate distribution of accommodations to cognitively disabled students.4

Three outstretched arms of varying skin tones triumphantly holding up rolled diplomas, representing inclusive learning for all.

Increase Awareness of the Importance of Inclusive Education


The exclusion of intellectually disabled students stems from a lack of education. Those in positions of power within the education sector along with students of all abilities must be informed on the laws, resources, and accommodations regarding inclusive education. To further promote inclusive education programs, teachers, board members, specialists, and students should be educated on the laws and acts pertaining to inclusive education as well as methods of intervention to resolve this issue. In increasing awareness, this solution responds to the need for educational inclusion; it works to diminish segregation in education by adhering to each student’s unique learning needs and fostering inclusive environments. Efforts toward greater awareness can include newly hired employees within the education sector taking mandatory workshops and online training on the importance of inclusive education and what it would look like in a classroom, characteristics of intellectual disabilities, and resources offered at specific institutions. They can also be educated on the enforcement of acts passed by Congress, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act5 and Every Student Succeeds Act.6 Students can take required courses in sensitivity training and learn their role in an inclusive classroom. Additionally, new curricula can be created, offering courses with content relating to intellectual disabilities to inform students of the value of inclusion. Further, adequate learning opportunities for all students, suitable intervention strategies, appropriate accommodations, and necessary instructional methods can be developed and administered.

Inclusive education for all students benefits all individuals within the education sector. With inclusion, increased acceptance of individual differences is fostered along with increased comprehension of diversity. Additionally, all students will have equal opportunities to excel as scholars. Teachers and administrators will create high expectations for all education programs in making inclusion a priority. If a form of intervention is not implemented, the exclusion will continue along with student marginalization, stigmatization of cognitive disabilities, and unequal educational opportunities.



Inclusive education is a human right that promotes inequality if not implemented. Secretary-general of the Pacific Island Forum, Andie Fong Toy, states, “Inclusive education seeks to address the learning needs of all children, with a specific focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion.”7



  1. J.F. Connolly, “Seclusion of Students with Disabilities: An Analysis of Due Process Hearings,” Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities 42, no. 4 (2017): 243-58,
  2. H.M. Bornstein, “Intellectual Disabilities,” in The SAGE Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development, ed. H.M. Bornstein (Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2018).
  3. N. Schreuer and D. Sachs, “Efficacy of Accommodations for Students with Disabilities in Higher Education,” Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 40, no. 1 (2014):
  4. Schreuer, “Efficacy of Accommodations.”
  5. “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 [IDEA], Pub. L. No. 105-17 (06/04/1997),
  6. “Every Student Succeeds Act Amendments of 2015 [ESSA], Pub. L. No. 114-95 (12/10/2015),
  7. Andie Fong Toy, quoted in “Inclusive Education for Persons with Disabilities,” accessed December 6, 2020,



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