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A Clear Understanding of the Concepts of Inclusion and Disability in the Education Sector

Updated on July 30, 2020


“Inclusion is seen as a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion from education and from within education.” -UNESCO

The above-mentioned definition of inclusion is given by UNESCO with regard to the education sector. In this definition, the term “inclusion” means to completely include, involve or make/be a part of any activity, situation, group or event, and the term “all learners” refers to each and every kind of student. This includes:

  1. Students belonging to low socio-economic backgrounds
  2. Students belonging to marginalized or disadvantaged sections of the society
  3. Students with special needs or disabled students
  4. Students belonging to good well-off families
  5. Students without special needs or normal students

Therefore, inclusion is that process where each and every student is “included or involved” in classroom learning and other school activities irrespective of whether he or she is a normal or disabled child and whether he or she belongs to a rich or a poor family background. In other words, inclusion is just the opposite of “exclusion” which, in the “general” educational terms, refers to the practice that supports the elimination or uninvolvement of a student in all classroom activities simply because he or she is disabled or belongs to a poor, low socio-economic family background.


The word “inclusion” is an English word which came into use in the 17th century and continues to be in use till date. This English word has its roots in Latin from where it has been derived i.e., the word inclusion is derived from the the Latin word “inclusio” (meaning to enclose), which in turn, has been further derived from another Latin word “includere” which means to shut in.

If talked in “specific” educational terms, inclusion strictly refers to the practice of involving and including all students suffering from disabilities, in regular classrooms. This means that all disabled students or students with special needs do not go to a “specialized school” for their education. Rather, they receive their education in a regular school which also provides education to “normal” students i.e., students without any special needs. So therefore, a school supporting the practice of inclusion is also viewed as an inclusive school.


An inclusive school is a school where all children irrespective of their caste, religion, sex, body condition etc. are educated.
An inclusive school is a school where all children irrespective of their caste, religion, sex, body condition etc. are educated.

In order to understand the meaning of inclusion more clearly, the following features of an inclusive school can be considered:

  1. Students with special needs are welcomed to receive instruction in the regular education classroom and participate in co-curricular activities with necessary supports.
  2. Policies in an inclusive school create a culture that welcomes all students and celebrates diversity. As a result, all students feel culturally safe and are valued by the other members of the school community.
  3. Clinical and support staff are integral members of the school community.
  4. Teachers use individualized instructions and certain teaching strategies to positively address the diverse needs of disabled students.

The term “disabled students” has been used much in the above-mentioned meaning of inclusion. So therefore, there is a need to first understand the meaning of disabled students. This has been explained in the following section.


The word “able” means the ability of a person to do a task with ease. By adding the prefix “dis” to this word, the new word thus derived is “disable” which is completely opposite in meaning to the former. “Disable” means the inability of a person to do a task with ease or completely unable to do a task. In other words, a disabled student is one who lacks the ability to perform a task or faces certain difficulties in doing a task because of incomplete development of any body part or having a defect in the same.


Chart showing six common disabilities with their respective pictures.
Chart showing six common disabilities with their respective pictures.

There are many types of disabilities that prevent a child from doing certain activities with ease. Some of these, which are most commonly recognized, are briefly described below:

  1. Learning Disability- Indicates difficulty in all learning activities like reading, writing and arithmetic calculations.
  2. Hearing Impairment- Indicates difficulty in hearing and listening. It is related to the ear.
  3. Visual Impairment- Indicates difficulty in seeing and looking. It is related to the eyesight/vision.
  4. Mentally Retarded- Indicates difficulty in understanding and behaving properly. It is related to the mind/intellectual.
  5. Orthopaedic/Physical Impairment- Indicates difficulty in doing any physical task. It is related to the external physical body (particularly bones and muscles).
  6. Speech Impairment- Indicates difficulty in speaking. It is related to the mouth.

The needs of the students suffering from any of the above disabilities are addressed by some support services available in a regular school. Because, in “specific” educational terms, the word “inclusion” refers to including disabled students in a regular class, so the support services that are available in a school cater only to the needs of such students.

There are many support services that are used to support students with special needs. The underneath section emphasizes upon the meaning of support services and its various types.


The word “support” means to help. Therefore, services that are provided to help others to reach their goals are known as support services. In terms of an inclusive educational environment, support services are those which help and aid disabled students to achieve their maximum potential. Disabled students are able to perform all possible tasks, within their effort, with some ease and comfort with the help of support services.


The following are some features of support services:

  1. Helping a disabled student to achieve academic excellence to the extent of his/her best possible effort.
  2. Ensuring equal participation of a disabled student in curricular and co-curricular activities (wherever possible).
  3. Contributing positively to the best possible overall development of a disabled student.
  4. Providing some comfort and ease to a disabled student in performing a task.
  5. Instilling a sense of motivation and encouragement in a disabled student to always have an optimistic attitude and mindset.

There are many different types of support services that are required to cater to the diverse needs of disabled students. These are classified below in into three types.


There are basically three main types of support services that are usually available in a school to facilitate inclusion. Without them, a disabled student will never be able to reach his/her maximum potential. The following table shows the classification of these support services:

Special Educators
Hearing Aids
Play-way Method
Multisensory Teaching Approach
School Counselors
Flash Cards
Speech Therapists
Talking Calculators
Illustrative Charts and Boards
Large Print Books
Accessible Toilets
Individualized Instructions
Classification of support services that are provided in inclusive schools.


Thus, to conclude, students suffering from any of the above-discussed disabilities face many problems in their educational learning process. These problems can be eliminated only with the adoption of suitable measures that cater to the distinct needs of such students.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Kriti Khandelwal


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