Challenge Inclusion

The starting point for this project is the demand of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) that education should be inclusive. All states of the European Union have signed this. What is remarkable about this chapter is that adult education is explicitly mentioned, which is not necessarily the case in other documents of this kind.


The UN CRPD defines persons with disabilities as persons with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments who consider their participation in society to be impaired because of the limitations. 


According to the UN CRPD, inclusion means participation within the "normal" range of education. Inclusion does not mean providing services only for people with disabilities, and certainly not just providing accessibility with a ramp and similar construction measures.


After all, around 80 million people with disabilities live in Europe. How many of them participate in adult education is, as the current fourth "Global Report on Adult Learning and Education" (GRALE IV 2019) describes, hardly known due to a lack of data.



Significant change in non-inclusive education practices



Ideally, inclusion should look like this: All offers of an adult education centre or a further education institute are also designed for people with any kind of limitations and disabilities, from programme planning to implementation.  But who plans an Excel course in such a way that it also addresses people with disabilities in such a way that they then really come and gladly participate with profit - and in the end the provider also gets his money's worth out of it?


From this example you can see immediately: To realise inclusion in the sense of the UN CRPD means a considerable change in established non-inclusive educational practice.



Networks with partners from the disability sector



There are definitely committed initiatives that have set up inclusive projects and offers in adult education. There are examples in Germany of adult education institutions working together with actors from the disability sector or self-help groups and corresponding networks. It has proved particularly successful when an adult education institution and a disability organisation cooperate directly on site. In this way, boundaries can be overcome in many respects and inclusion can be realised together.


These experiences also show that it is not necessary to make all adult education inclusive. Through good cooperation, precisely those educational formats can be developed that are suitable for inclusive adult education.



As a general rule:



  • Accessibility is a prerequisite on the way to inclusion, but it is by no means everything. Adult education institutions should, according to the principle of inclusion, extend the target group to all people, including those with disabilities and limitations. Do I also reach, for example, the hearing impaired with my - publicly funded courses? Can everyone really attend the Excel courses? 

  • Further education funding is not geared towards special expenses for people with special needs. Adult education institutions are already operating at the economic limit. Here, the standard funding would have to be adapted accordingly, for example through the continuing education laws.

  • An important point is communication and didactics. Designing and implementing inclusive courses is a challenge in itself. This requires thorough training and further education.

  • People with disabilities are very diverse and individual. They enjoy learning as much as anyone else and have a right to adequate adult education. Even if it sometimes takes effort.