UNESCO supports the inclusion of learners with disabilities in Higher Education, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities


In support of the theme of the 2019 International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), 3 December 2019, UNESCO organized a workshop on the ‘Guidelines on the inclusion of learners with disabilities in open and distance learning'. This workshop supported the focus of the 2019 IDPD, ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’.

The objective of IDPD is to mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

UNESCO, with international, regional and national partners developed the ‘Learning for All: Guidelines on the Inclusion of Learners with Disabilities in Open and Distance Learning’ in 2016 to support access to quality learning opportunities for persons with disabilities through Open and Distance Learning by harnessing openly licensed educational resources (OER), peer reviewed journals (OA), and software (FOSS). This document provides recommendations for governments, institutions, instructional designers, teachers and quality assurance and qualifications recognition bodies as well as industry and developers, families and most importantly, persons with disabilities.

The overall objective of this workshop was to take stock of work in contextualizing the ‘Learning for All: Guidelines on the Inclusion of Learners with Disabilities in Open and Distance Learning’ to date and propose actions for its enhancement. The workshop brought together experts in accessibility from a number of UNESCO world regions at the institutional, governmental and non-governmental level.

Throughout the debates, the participants all affirmed that “The guidelines must be a model of accessibility and inclusiveness”

The workshop included a keynote by the 2016 and 2018 prize laureates of the UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Prof. Alireza Darvishy, Head of the ICT Accessibility Lab at the University of Zurich (Switzerland), and Mr Vashkar Bhattacharjee from a2i - Innovate for all (Bangladesh).

The debates at this workshop also underscored the importance of the implementation of the UNESCO OER Recommendation on OER which was adopted at the 40th Session of the UNESCO General Conference last week. In particular the point (iii) of this Recommendation which encourages ‘ensuring the principle of gender equality, non-discrimination, accessibility and inclusiveness is reflected in strategies and programmes for creating, accessing, re-using , adapting and redistributing OER’ was highlighted.

This meeting was in line with the UNESCO’s objective to promote universal access to information through open and inclusive solutions and innovative use of ICTs for sustainable development agreed upon at the 39th Session of its General Conference in November 2017.