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History of Inclusive Education

The fundamental right of children with developmental disabilities to receive an education was the first issue to mobilize the community living movement in the 1950s. At the time, it was widely believed that children with developmental disabilities could not learn. The government, therefore, accepted no responsibility for their education. Parents of children with developmental disabilities, understanding the potential of their sons and daughters to learn and grow, responded by creating their own schools in places like church basements and private homes.

In 1955 parents created a provincial organization, which eventually grew into the BC Association for Community Living, and now, Inclusion BC. Ever since, families have steadily advocated for changes in government laws and policies so that their children with disabilities would have the same right to be educated as other school-aged children.

Government slowly accepted responsibility for funding parent-run schools and eventually agreed that not just funding, but public schooling, should be available to children with disabilities. Although the first educational programs developed by school boards were segregated, they successfully laid the groundwork for parents and others to call for the inclusion of children in general education classes. The move to inclusive education throughout BC came in the late 1980s. Now, however, reduced funding for public education threatens to erode the gains that have been made in inclusive education.