Tuesday, 13 August 2013

For disabled students to have a choice in their education

I have been reading the 'Reclaiming Our Futures: Draft UK Disabled People’s Manifesto' consultation And whilst it’s mostly a good piece with many of the areas covered I would just like to point out one omission and where my views differ in terms of policy for disabled people. I am myself registered blind but haven’t always been. I lost my sight aged 16 through ha rare genetic disease which affected my optic nerve. I did attend mainstream school for most of my schooling life when I could still see and spent the last year of 6th form struggling by and trying to complete my education whilst trying to cope with a fairly quick sight loss. I am With Ben Golightly http://m.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.inclusionlondon.co.uk%2FAnnouncing-Reclaiming-Our-Futures-Manifesto&h=kAQHDVMdO&s=1 Also a member of the socialist party who is finding the demand for a fully inclusive mainstream system of education problematic on various levels. For myself who attended both mainstream for a time and specialist education at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford for a few years. I experienced both sides of the coin if you like and I personally found being in a specialist environment really beneficial to myself in terms of independence and progression in life too. There are skills I have learnt away at Hereford I would not have been able to get in mainstream education. I personally feel as a socialist and a disabled rights campaigner that there should always be the choice for people if you felt mainstream was where you would be better suited then all necessary adjustments and provisions should be made available to you to complete your education fully to the best of your ability. Likewise if you feel mainstream education which can be very full on and intense for many with big class's and a heavy work load with all the pressures it comes with isn’t for you then specialist education is a must and is something that should be continued to be being funded. During my time at RNCB there were cuts going on all over the place with the Learning and Skills Council effectively disappearing in place your local authority would have to decide if to fund you to travel out of county to a residential specialist school. This as we well know was becoming harder and harder with budget cuts meaning colleges like mine were facing a very uncertain future. I think this is desperate and much awareness needs to be raised on this. Hereford College for the blind for example taught me many things and was I stand by a vital part of what I am today. The people I met the experiences I had the skills I learnt are all hugely important to the person I am today. I am lucky I had the chance to learn away from home in a relaxed atmosphere the education but also the daily living skills including basic cooking, washing and personal hygiene etc. I also received much needed mobility training to gain confidence to use public transport and navigate using a white cane which I was not so familiar with before attending college. The consultation is a good one I may submit this piece but Ben has already covered a lot of what I put I would just be coming from a blind persons perspective. As a disabled person choice matters and having the option to choose what meets your needs the best is something we should promote and encourage. Labeling and boxing people into categories and education systems which may not suit them is a sad state of affairs. The choice to be supported in mainstream with the necessary funding is as important as maintaining and up keeping specialist education for disabled people today and in the years to come.

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