Disabilities and Special Needs

The lack of recognition of the rights of persons with disability is a serious challenge in brining about equality in education. There’s a complicated relationship between disability and gender. Many gender and education researchers have highlighted the double oppressions of women with disabilities due to their gender and dis-abling conditions but have paid very little attention  to full integration of the rights of persons with disability in education research.

A clear outcome example of such shortcomings is that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the most important and the only legally binding international instrument dedicated to women’s rights, does not even mention women with disabilities.

The marginalisation of disability related issues in women’s rights work and advocacy for gender equality is also seen in special education discussions, where focus is on girls and boys differences rather than on the importance of inclusion.

This section aims to provide a comprehensive list of readings and organisations that address gender, education and disabilities. However, the information, and recent evidence based research in these areas are rare.

One of the first challenges is the lack of gender disaggregated estimation of people living with disabilities. According to UN over 600 million people or more than 10 % of the earth’s population live with a form of disability.

In the context of education, and special education the numbers indicate that more boys are receiving special education than girls. While some have argued that this is due to the fact that a higher number of men live with disabilities, there is not much of a diverse conversation in this regard to have a full picture of the situation of girls and boys with disabilities in the education sector.

Useful Links

NASEN: UK based, Nasen is an education organisation that promotes the education, training, advancement and development of all those with special and additional support needs. NASEN runs several journals, namely: British Journal of Special EducationSupport for Learning, new on-line publication Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs and the magazine Special.

Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education: UK based, “the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) is an independent centre, set up in 1982, actively supporting inclusive education as a human right of every child”. The centre pages on gender and education provide important legal and lobbying tools for teachers on gender equality and inclusive education

Education.com: This US based private company, “from kindergarten readiness through college prep, gives parents the information they need and the ideas they want to help their kids reach their full potential and make learning fun”. The organisation’s pages on gender and special education provide articles and resources for parents and teachers.

The Victor Pineda Foundation: US based NGOS is an international education organisation which advocates on the rights of persons with disabilities. Of particular interest to teachers is a learning/teaching guide for children on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

TeAchnology: TeAchnology is US based organisation that provides free resources for teachers on diverse issues, including a page on special education that contains a large number of links to resources for teachers some of which are relevant for gender equality.

Tschantz, J. and Markowitz, J (2003) Gender and Special Education: Current State Data Collection: A brief analysis of a critical issue in special education:

Further Reading

Benjamin, S. (2002) The Micropolitics of Special Educational Needs: An ethnography. Buckingham, Open University Press.

Coutinho, M. J., Oswald, D. P. and King, M. (2001) Differences in the special education identification rates for boys and girls: Trends and issues. Richmond, VA: Project PROGRESS, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Coutinho, M., Oswald, D. P. and Best, A. L. (2006) ‘Differences in Outcomes for Female and Male Students in Special Education’ Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 29 (1):  48-59.

Daniels, H., Hey, V., Leonard, D. and Smith, M. (2000) Issues of equity in Special Needs Education as seen from the perspective of gender. In Daniels, H. (Ed) Special Education Re-formed: beyond rhetoric? London, Falmer.

Osler, A. and Vincent, K. (2003) Girls and exclusion: Rethinking the agenda. London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Oswald, D. P., Nuygen, N., Coutinho, M. J. and Hull, C. (2000) The role of gender and disproportionate representation in special education. Richmond, VA: Project ACHIEVE, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Rousso, H. and Wehmeyer, M. L. (eds) (2001) Double jeopardy: Addressing gender equity in special education. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Tilstone, C. and Rose, R. (2003) Strategies to Promote Inclusive Practice. London, RoutledgeFalmer.


Page author: Manilee Bagheritari

Updated: 15th January 2013

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