Over the past decade, major progress has been made towards increasing access to education generally, as well as for persons with autism specifically.
However, in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools, impacting more than 90 percent of students worldwide. The disruption in learning caused by the pandemic has reversed years of progress and has exacerbated inequalities in education.
Many students with autism have been especially hard hit and studies show that they have been disproportionately affected by disruptions to routines, as well as services and supports that they rely on.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in 2015 provide a blueprint for addressing the major challenges facing the world, including inequality.
Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as the foundation for improving people’s lives and reducing inequalities.
The specific targets for SDG 4 refer to the need to ensure “equal access to all levels of education and vocational training” for persons with disabilities and to build and upgrade education facilities that are disability sensitive and that provide “inclusive and effective learning environments for all.”
In this respect, the SDGs echo the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 24 of the Convention recognizes that persons with disabilities have the right to inclusive, quality education on an equal basis with others and that reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements should be provided.
The 2022 World Autism Awareness Day observance
This year‘s observance will address inclusive education in the context of SDG 4 – the promise and reality – through a virtual event that will include a moderated panel discussion, along with brief presentations by self-advocates, educators, and other experts.
The theme of inclusive education is intrinsically linked with the focus of last year’s WAAD observance, “Inclusion in the Workplace”. Panelists in last year’s event emphasized how crucial it is to foster inclusive quality education for people on the autism spectrum so that they can fulfill their potential and achieve sustainable success in the labor market. In this respect, inclusive education is the key to the transformative promise of the Sustainable Development Goals, to LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND.
The event is organized by the UN Department of Global Communications and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, with the support of civil society partners including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Global Autism Project, and the Specialisterne Foundation.