The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in article 24 seeks to combat discrimination of children with disabilities in the field of education by prescribing a model of social inclusion. This paper will critically examine the sociological concept of inclusion, the German experience in implementing article 24 and the limitations of article 24 vis à vis the Right to Education in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Before turning to the situation in Germany it is beneficial to discuss underlying concepts relating to special need education in order to clarify the notion of inclusion. In doing so, contested medical concepts, the perception of education as end rather than means and the voicelessness of the child, all lead to the conclusion that a rights-based approach is advantageous in acquiring social justice. Moreover, looking at the case of Germany and a school system with an exclusion rate of 82% the delay in the public discourse about inclusion is particularly striking. Hence, section 3 will look at empirical data, the UN definition of education and elaborate on the German confusion of inclusion and integration by making reference to domestic law and an exemplary case along with relating the Monitoring Body’s guidelines of availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability to the action plan of North Rhine-Westphalia. Finally, the application of social inclusion maxims to anti-discrimination law demands significant, positive adjustments but is also restricted by its focus on absolute disadvantage. The convention is arguably limited because of its narrow outlook owed to its civil and political nature and inclusive reform might bring broader equality when applied to the a priori Right to Education from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a decision of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (the ‘BC HRT’) (reversing the decisions of both the British Columbia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal) that the Board of Education of School District No. 44 (North Vancouver) (the ‘School District’), by closing a facility that provided intensive services and individualised assistance to students with severe learning disabilities, had denied a child with severe dyslexia access to a service customarily available to the public, being education, contrary to the British Columbia Human Rights Code (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 210, s. 8). Although the School District was subject to severe funding constraints, it was found to have not acted with a bona fide and reasonable justification, which could have provided a defence to the Human Rights Code violation.