Technology key to inclusive education
By Eduardo Jauregui, Co-founder and CEO in Irisbond
Day by day, a more inclusive school is possible thanks to technology. A school where children –whether disabled or not– live and learn as equals, because in reality, that is what they are. Technology can remove circumstantial barriers that hitherto separated us. Inclusive schooling is a viable option for educational systems committed to today and tomorrow. In Spain alone, there are around 4 million people with some form of disability. Inclusiveness in education is, therefore, something society as a whole needs to implement, as it represents the starting point for truly normalising and integrating all people: disabled or otherwise. This must be more than just a strategy to “place” people in social systems and structures, but rather change these systems and structures and make them better for everyone.
For education to be truly inclusive, it requires children with disabilities to attend classes alongside children who do not have any such disability. Only then will children perceive and live disability as something normal, something they will take with them the rest of their lives and which will allow disabled people to become fully entitled citizens who are socially and economically independent and autonomous, rather than being burdens for the system. Children will no longer find it strange that a classmate needs a technological device to communicate, or a mobility aid to move around.
This does not mean special education schools should be shut down, as they are indeed a fundamental part of the system. But in many cases, such as with cerebral palsy, Rett syndrome or other rare diseases, children only have their motor functions affected and are unable to communicate through speech; yet, intellectually they are fully capable of following a formal education. Eye-tracking devices, which since January this year are available free of charge through the public health system, offer assisted communication in which a gaze is used to control a device such as a computer or a tablet, communicating thanks to a special programme.
How does it work
Built on advanced algorithms based on artificial intelligence, the software captures eye movement and translates it into precise movements within a screen. Anyone can therefore access all information naturally, intuitively and hands-free, creating a new way of relating to the environment through eye-tracking technologies.
This technology, now available to anyone who needs it, offers disabled children the opportunity to attend mainstream schools. Now all that’s left to do is for schools to integrate them.
This isn’t science fiction; it’s reality.
Indeed, there are already success stories of children in Spanish schools who are studying and taking their exams just like anyone else. However, such cases are far from being the norm, despite the fact that integrating children with disabilities benefits not only these children but also society as a whole. Communication is a fundamental human right, one which cannot be denied due to disability. And even less so today, as technology has made it possible.