University of Calgary

Researcher invited to global conference on inclusive education

UToday HomeMarch 26, 2013

The University of Calgary has been part of the inclusive post-secondary initiative for nearly 20 years. Photo by Riley BrandtThe University of Calgary has been part of the inclusive post-secondary initiative for nearly 20 years. Photo by Riley BrandtIndividuals with developmental disabilities often face limited educational and employment opportunities and discrimination. As a result, they are often more likely to live lives of poverty, social isolation, abuse and loneliness.

The University of Calgary’s Anne Hughson, PhD, has dedicated the past 25 years of her work to initiate and implement inclusive post-secondary education opportunities for those with developmental disabilities in hopes that it will help them secure better employment opportunities.

In February she was invited to attend the second annual ZeroProject conference held in Austria to present the work. The purpose of the conference was to discuss ideas, policies and practices that have been shown to help in overcoming barriers to people with disabilities securing employment.

“People with developmental disabilities often don’t get the same chances in life as the rest of us,” says Hughson, who is the director of Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine.

While the definition of developmental disabilities can vary, typically it refers to individuals with an IQ of less than 70 who require support to function in the community. Hughson says these individuals don’t want to see themselves as a burden to society and that they want to be able to work and contribute to community life.

Hughson and her colleagues have been involved in the successful implementation of Alberta post-secondary educational initiatives that welcome students with developmental disabilities into authentic, inclusive academic environments. Currently, 18 post-secondary institutions in Alberta — one of the highest number of colleges, universities and technical institutes in any one province — have extended opportunities to these individuals so as to involve them in campus life, regular course-work and other academic activities such as labs and field work.

The University of Calgary has been part of this education initiative for nearly 20 years. As a result of these initiatives, over 70 per cent of graduates have gone on to secure employment with competitive wages. Employment rates for typical post-secondary graduates are approximately 82 per cent.

“We still have a lot to do to not just change attitudes but to transform the social structures that create these barriers; however, the opportunity for an inclusive post-secondary education is certainly going in the right direction towards having individuals with developmental disabilities live their lives like everyone else,” she says.

Anne Hughson’s work has been carried out with the Alberta Association for Community Living and post-secondary institutions in Alberta. She was invited to attend the ZeroProject conference by the Essl Foundation and the World Future Council.


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