A paragraph from Desiderata says, “You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.” The paragraph is in consonance with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 1994 Salamanca Statement which calls for the accommodation of all children, regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional state in an ordinary school. The Framework for Action stipulates that children with special educational needs, namely: the gifted, the mentally retarded, the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, the orthopedically handicapped, the learning disabled, the speech defectives, the children with behavior problems, the autistic children and those with health problems, must have access to regular schools – that is the basic idea of the department’s Inclusive Education or Mainstreaming Program. In the Mainstreaming Program, the department maintains a warm and accepting classroom community that honors differences and embraces diversity of students. In the Philippines in 1992, the enactment of Republic Act 7277, otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, provided the Department of Education a stronger impetus to improve on its educational services for these children. Its implementation of a child-centered, interactive and participatory curriculum has eliminated isolation among children with special needs. Today, there are more than a hundred public and private schools offering educational services to special children through the Inclusive Education Program or Mainstreaming Program. These institutions are scattered geographically in the 17 regions of the country.
In this connection, Saint Louis University (SLU), being a catholic learning institution, has opened its doors to accommodate students with disabilities including the blind prior to the emergence or propagation of inclusive education principles in North Luzon. At first, this was not an easy adjustment for some teachers who just gave a grade of 75 to their blind students since modifying or disrupting their system is such a big task to do.
Several years ago, Saint Louis University spearheaded the adoption of “inclusive education,” of which has made a very notable change in its teacher education program to prepare future educators become more responsive and ready to deal with a wide variety and types of learners in their future classes, This paradigm shift, of course, have disturbed some of its faculties as they were not ready for it. Inclusive Education
Inclusive education means that all students in a school, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses in any area, become part of the school community. They are included in the feeling of belonging among other students, teachers and support staff. The federal individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its 1997 amendments make it clear that schools have a duty to educate children with disabilities in general education classroom. (The Renaissance Group, 2009) Visual impairment and blindness
There are four levels of visual function, those with normal vision, moderate visual impairment, severe visual impairment and blindness. This study refers to those who are blind.
Statistics shows that there are 314 million people who are visually impaired worldwide and 45 million of them are blind. 87% of these visually impaired live in the developing countries and 85% is avoidable. It was also known that that most people with visual impairment are older and females are more at risk at every age. Though the number of people blinded by infectious diseases has been greatly reduced, age-related impairment is increasing. Cataract remains the leading causes of blindness globally, except in the most developed countries. (WHO, 2010)
Marais, who taught for four years in an inclusive elementary school, offers a broad outline for an inclusive classroom. Inclusive education is nothing more than good...