Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Inclusion is the goal, but BC schools aren't there yet
By Spencer van Vloten
Formed to promote the inclusion of students with disabilities in BC's education system, BCEdAccess provides support to thousands of families and students throughout the province.
Spencer van Vloten talked with BCEdAccess's Nicole Kaler about ongoing exclusion in BC schools, what inclusion really means, and what parents can do to set their children up for success.
Spencer: What does BCEdAccess do?
Nicole: We’re a grassroots group of parents, guardians, and family members of children with disabilities and complex learning needs. We support each other to make sure these kids have what they need in the education system.
One aspect is person-to-person support, walking each other through different issues like how to deal with teachers and principals, and from this we see that families across the province are facing similar issues and can be a great help to one another.
As a group, we lobby the provincial government for policy reform, and partner with other disability groups who are doing similar work.
We work at all ends, doing what needs to be done to get children what they want, need, and deserve.
Spencer: We often hear the word ‘inclusion’, but it means different things in different contexts. What does inclusion mean when it comes to education?
Nicole: Inclusion varies by family, but at the heart of it is that it’s what the child and family wants and needs.
Contrary to what’s often suggested, it’s not necessarily having a disabled student in a class with non-disabled peers. My daughter would not be in an instructively inclusive environment were she in a mainstream class, but for some kids they can be in that type of class with the right supports.
There's no one-size-fits-all inclusion, and sometimes being with one’s disabled peers doesn’t mean it’s non-inclusive; it’s about choice and meeting each student's needs.
"There's no one-size-fits-all inclusion"
Spencer: What has the state of inclusion been in BC schools before and during the pandemic?
Nicole: There was a trend of kids being forced out of school system.
School districts have been normalizing the idea that if you have some sort of diagnosis, physical or mental, you don’t get an education like everyone else. There was little to no support for accommodations, things like half days or non-school days.