Awareness of disabilities is key, says Professor

March 17, 2014

Barbados Advocate

A professor of special education at a United States based university is suggesting that it would serve Barbados well to embark on a conscious awareness campaign in the area of disabilities that would eventually help disabled persons to fully explore and develop their talents.

Professor Felicity Crawford, Chair of Special Education and Associate Professor, Wheelock College in Boston, United States explained in an interview with The Barbados Advocate, that such an effort would help the wider society recognize that they could easily become disabled, and by extension help them to become more understanding of the needs of the disabled community.

"What is important to recognize, is that in any democratic society, the way change occurs is by the larger society getting behind an issue. On one hand it is important that we do right by kids by educating them all, giving them the same kinds of opportunities because equity in education is important, but we cannot as a people rely solely on educators, we all have a part to play," she said.

Professor Crawford indicated that countries like Barbados which have signed on to and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are expected to put steps in place at such levels as policy, education and employment, to begin to secure the educational opportunities and then the subsequent competitive employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

"People with disabilities do have significant contributions which they can make particularly when we think about people with dyslexia in science and engineering and we don't yet see that because we have a conception of people with disabilities as being deficient. So this is why the public understanding of disabilities needs to change, we need more information and a better understanding of what is possible. If we look at a large school like MIT, they have a large number of students with dyslexia in science in education. Some of our Nobel Laureates had dyslexia, had schizophrenia and were still incredibly successful," she said.

Noting that Barbados' largest resource is its people, the special education professor maintained that as efforts are made to look at reshaping the human capital in this nation, one of the things that should be considered is how they can harness those talents that are yet to be exploited for the benefit of the country. With that in mind, she maintained that the education system must be open to using technology and alternative strategies for teaching and testing individuals if all persons, abled and disabled, are to be allowed to excel.

"The iPad for example has hundreds, if not by now thousands of apps that provide unique opportunities for children to learn in different ways, and for persons with disabilities to have access to information for them to be able to express what they know in a variety of ways. It is certainly significantly important that you think about how you invest in the kind of technology infrastructure to bring that kind of application to the classroom and to people with disabilities. Just by harnessing the technology that is out there would change the trajectory of people with disabilities," the educator explained.

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