Approximately one billion people in the world are living with a disability, with at least 1 in 10 being children (Global Partnership for Education, 2015). Regardless of the amount of people with disabilities these children, adolescence and adults are the most stigmatized, marginalized and isolated. These individuals are left out, made fun of, alone and most of the time lack the social support necessary to cope with their disability. Education is one of the most effective ways to break this cycle of discrimination that these children and families face but not all of these individuals are given an equal opportunity to receive the proper education.
We may believe that Canada is excluded from this idea and that we give all children, including those with disabilities the opportunity to attend school and learn, but this is not the case. There are many educational policies which are inconsistent across the country and/or the province and limit these children with lack of services and resources. In Canada, we believe that we are doing a good job with integration and breaking down barriers for children of all abilities but in reality, we still have many flaws that we must fix. Integration requires more than building ramps or funding programs (CBC News, 2013). Students with disabilities need to be included in the mainstream of society and school by doing things like riding the bus, participating in class and hanging out with friends. An article which tackles this issue of segregation took place in Vancouver and involves a 14 year old boy with Down Syndrome name Daniel McGregor who was a victim of bullying. Like all high school students on the island his lives on, he must take a ferry to the mainland in order to catch a bus to school. When Daniel began his daily commute, he was given a Special Education Assistance to accompany him on his ferry rides but this service came to an abrupt stop when the district believed that he should be more independent. Once his assistance was taken away, Daniel faced some severe instances of bullying due to his disability. Since Daniel has Down Syndrome, he could not tell if the children were laughing at him or with him and wanted to make friends and fit it. In time, Daniel began to dread his ferry commute due to the bullying from his peers all as a result of the educational service being taken away from him.
Although this case is complex, it is a prime example of a boy with a disability who lives in Canada and who feels unsafe and left out. His isolation is influencing his right to an education because the bullying has caused him to not want to attend school. Only 1 per cent of children with disabilities spend an hour a day with friends (CBC News, 2013). As well as many lack the educational services necessary in order to properly learn and attend school.
What can we do? Where can we go from here?
We need to invest in programs where disabled children can be properly integrated so that they can feel connected with their school community. This will prevent bullying from others, create strong friendships and motivate these disabled students to stay in school and continue with their education. We may believe that the hardest struggle for a student with a disability is to learn to cope and strive with their disability but in fact, isolation is considered more painful to live with than any disability they have (CBC News, 2013).