#DrawDisability: World Education Forum

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INCHEON, South Korea — From May 19 to 22, Incheon, South Korea, hosted the World Education Forum, a platform for global leaders in education. The objectives of the forum included evaluating the successes and shortfalls of the Education for All goals and education-related Millennium Development Goals. It also gave the international community an opportunity to develop a Framework of Action for moving forward with new agendas for global education. The ultimate goal for the forum is to create a plan that effectively provides access to quality education for all by 2030. This year, an art project called #DrawDisability was showcased at the forum.

#DrawDisability was started by the U.N. Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative. The goal of #DrawDisability is to create a global art project focused on disability and raise awareness on disability in the classroom. Students with and without disabilities are invited to draw what comes to mind when they think of disability. This could mean a portrayal of their personal understanding of disability, their feelings toward disability, or related issues ranging from inclusion to discrimination. The best drawings were showcased at the World Education Forum, and eventually, a final selection of 30 drawings will be exhibited at the 70th Annual U.N. General Assembly.

Since 1 billion people worldwide have some kind of physical or intellectual disability, with 93 million children having a moderate to severe disability, the #DrawDisability project has resonated with many students. #DrawDisability was born out of a need to raise awareness of access to quality education for students with disabilities.

For students with disabilities who are also living in poverty, access to special education programs can be very limited. In the United States, 28 percent of children with disabilities live with poor families. Unfortunately, studies have also revealed a growing relationship between poverty and risk for disability. Children growing up in poverty are more likely to have learning disabilities or developmental delays. This can be linked to a number of factors, from living in a stressful environment, to inadequate nutrition, and to poor mothers not receiving proper prenatal care.

Schools in poor areas may completely lack adequate special education programs, and students with disabilities are left to struggle. Furthermore, about 80 percent of people with disabilities live in developing countries where the education system cannot meet their needs. #DrawDisability can help people see the variety of lifestyles that people with disabilities lead worldwide, and the different challenges they face across the globe.

The drawings submitted represent the endless ways students interpreted the instruction to “Draw disability.” Saddat Nazir, 11, of Jersey City, USA captioned his photo with the explanation, “My artwork shows that people with disabilities all around us in every field are as good as anyone else. People with disabilities can be artistic, achieving, smart, athletic, and brave. In my point of view, there is no human being in the world who is disabled.” Chen Jianing, 9, of Beijing’s drawing depicted a robot dog that guided the blind and played games with them, while Nicolas Gioacchino, 6, of Torino, Italy illustrated a boy helping his friend who cannot walk.

The #DrawDisability campaign reveals the diversity in those who have disabilities. Using art as a force for social change can produce positive results, and raising awareness is one part of making special education accessible.

Jane Harkness

Sources: Global Observatory for Inclusion 1, Global Observatory for Inclusion 2, Global Observatory for Inclusion 3, Global Observatory for Inclusion 4, Global Observatory for Inclusion 5, Global Post, Forum on Public Policy, UNESCO
Photo: We Are Lumos

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