Going to School: Rights for Children with Disabilities
by Andrea Holley, Manager of Outreach and Public Education, Human Rights Watch
Going to School examines the issue of integrating children with disabilities into the mainstream school system in Los Angeles. The stories in the film highlight parents' struggles for their children's right to education and their fight against the charity-based stereotype of people with disabilities in mainstream society.
People with disabilities are guaranteed a certain set of rights due to their special circumstances under documents in international law, namely the 1975 UN Declaration of the Rights of Disabled People. In the United States, we have similar laws that guarantee people with disabilities equal access to education, employment, housing and many other basic offerings of society. The operative phrase is "equal access" and it implies that society must accommodate the different needs of people with disabilities, rather than positing that people with disabilities must accommodate society or accept lesser services.
Going to School also obliges us to look through diverse cultural lenses when viewing children with disabilities. By going through the process of obtaining proper educational services for a child with a disability who is also bilingual, we are reminded that disability has its own culture. For instance, one must take into account not only the cultural differences associated with being a Spanish-speaker in an English-dominant school system, but also the cultural differences associated with being a person with a disability in an environment that is predominately populated by people without disabilities.