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1. Inclusion in general education
In the Equal Educational Rights policy (Het gelijke onderwijskansenbeleid voor het basisonderwijs, omzendbrief ref BaO/2003/01) the Flemish authorities establish equal rights for each child of school age. This is determined specifically in the right of enrolment in the school of choice, the protection of these rights, and support for integrated school settings.

Right to enrolment in the school of choice
In principle, every pupil has the right to enrol in the school of his/her choice. This right is established since the school year 2003-2004. There are some exceptions for children with special needs with regards to education, therapy and care. In principle, these students have equal rights; however, a school can refer the pupil to a special school if the normal school claims to have insufficient bearing power to provide for all the special needs of the student. This referral should be done in consideration with parents, school board, and centres of student counselling.

In practice, this right of free school choice often seems to be an empty box for children with disabilities. Parents have a hard time finding a school that will accept their child with a disability.
Most children with special educational needs still go to a special school. There are 8 different school types for children with disabilities in primary school. In secondary school there are 4 types of schools.

Integrated and inclusive school settings
There are 2 main models for integrated settings in Flanders: integrated education and inclusive education.
The starting point for integrated education is the idea that by giving pupils with special needs additional support, they can reach the same learning goals as the average regular student. In integrated education, the student with special needs will adapt more or less to the regular students. As a result, a lot of disabled students are excluded from integrated education because of their handicap. Integrated education exists since 1983.

In inclusive education, the emphasis is on the acceptance of the personality and the abilities of each child, including his/hers disabilities. In inclusive education, the pupil with special needs will follow an independent trajectory and will not work towards the same goals as the regular students. The emphasis will be on social integration and acceptance of the child within the class. Since 2003, the Flemish authority regulated inclusive education and created 50 places for inclusive education.
Both integrated and inclusive school settings are a close cooperation between regular schools and school for children with special needs. The aim is to provide part-time or fulltime, permanent or temporary education in regular school for children with special needs. For each integrated school setting a number of additional teaching hours will be used by experts of the special schools to assist the pupil and his/her teacher during regular classes and to provide additional classes if necessary. These experts can be teachers, paramedic services, social, psychological or pedagogic professionals.
Children with disabilities can receive a budget for personal assistance, which can be spend to facilitate the activities of daily life and the living independently, for instance ADL activities within the educational setting. However, this budget cannot be used for the educational or pedagogical purposes.

In the education policy, inclusive education is cited as the preferred and first option for all children with and without disabilities. However, in practice this is not the general rule. In 2002 (last numbers available from Vlaams Fonds), 1561 children participated in inclusive and integrated school settings in 491 schools, while 26.794 children with special needs attended special schools. The main obstacles for the execution of the educational policy are unadapted formation for teachers, incomplete information for parents, and the lack of adapted support systems, financial as well as other.

As long as schools don't get enough support to provide for all the needs of students with special educational needs, without disadvantage for the regular students, parents will have difficulties finding their child with a disability an integrated school setting.

2. Inclusion in Physical Education

Physical Education starts at preschool-level, where the children receive 1 hour of physical education per week. In primary school as well as secondary school, children have at least 2 hours of physical education, in special schools as well as regular schools.

There are no specific regulations for PE in integrated and inclusive education. If students in integrated settings are not able to follow some classes due to their handicap, they can be relieved from these classes. The classes will be replaced by others.

School sports are not compulsory in Flanders, they are organised by the Flemish Foundation of School Sports (Stichting Vlaamse Schoolsport, SVS). Recently, this organisation started cooperating with the Flemish league of disabled sports (Vlaamse Liga Gehandicaptensport, VLG) to support and guide pupils with a disability in their participation in school sports. Inclusive school sport is organised on a personal level and at the moment limited to the following sports: athletics, basketball, horseback riding, shooting, skiing, tennis, table tennis cycling and swimming.
On regional level, the SVS organises recreational activities for special schools, these activities are separate from the main circuit.

Inclusion in sports and physical activity

The BLOSO (Commissariaat-generaal voor de Bevordering van de Lichamelijke Ontwikkeling, de Sport en de Openluchtrecreatie) is the public institution responsible for the subsidising of sports federations. Three sports organisations are subsidised and acknowledged under the same rules as the regular sports organisations: the Flemish federation for disabled sports (Vlaamse Federatie voor Gehandicaptensport vzw), Psylos vzw and the Flemish League for disabled sports (Vlaamse Liga voor gehandicaptensport). The latter is the only one organising elite sports and participating in the Paralympics. The first 2 are recreational sports clubs.

Elite sports: the disciplines from the Paralympic program are included in the general list of elite sports, as defined in the current policy for elite sports. The Paralympic athlete should get a medal at the Paralympics or world games to enjoy get the statute of an elite athlete. Elite disabled sports are supported by governmental funds, although less substantial as regular elite sports. The elite paralympic athletes are members of the Belgian Paralympic Committee, a partner of the Belgian Olympic Interfederal Committee. In the newly proposed sports policy, better support, financial as well as technical is envisaged.

The education of coaches is organised by the BLOSO, more specific, the Flemish School of Coaches (Vlaamse Trainers School, VTS). De VTS organises a general course in sports for people with a disability as well as sport-specific courses for horse-back riding, wheelchair-basketball and swimming.
Apart from the general equal rights constitution, regulating equal participation in all aspects of society, there is no legal framework promoting integration and inclusion in sports and physical activity. Without a specific policy on integration in sports, integration will only take place on a personal base and depend of the goodwill of the regular sports organisations.

Only 3 % of people with a disability participate in sports. There are no specific numbers for integration of adapted sports.

Employment of youngsters with a disability

In Flanders, the Flemish Fund for Social Integration of Persons with a Handicap (Vlaams Fonds voor Sociale Integratie van Personen met een Handicap, VFSIPH) is the governmental institution in charge of the employment of persons with a disability. The fund is responsible for the execution of all regulations with regards to the enhancement of integration of people with a disability in the workplace. To have access to these regulations, the employee with a disability has to enrol in the fund.
There are a number of special measures to facilitate the integration of employees with a disability in the workplace.

  1. Specialised information for youngsters with regards to different career opportunities. This information is provided by organisations subsidised and recognised by the fund.
  2. Specialized job counselling and assistance throughout the career. These services are integrated in the regular job counselling circuit to enhance integration in the regular economic circuit.
  3. The Budget for Personal Assistance (Persoonlijk Assistentie Budget, PAB): this is a budget that can be used by persons with a disability to provide for assistance during activities of daily living. These can also be used for assistance at the workplace.
  4. Practical training: 12 centres throughout Flanders organise practical training in integrated settings for persons with a disability, the objective is the prepare persons with a disability for full integration. During the practical training, the trainees receive a wage from the Fund.
  5. Employment quota: A law of 1963 defines employment quota for private as well as public firms. For private firms, the quota have never been operationalised or executed. For public institutions, the quota has been reviewed in 1999. A minimum of 2,5% of employees in public institutions should be persons with a disability.
  6. Support measures for employers: under certain conditions the Fund subsidises wages of persons with a disability. Furthermore, the employers can receive an integration allowance; this will cover the costs of integration. Finally, employers can receive an allowance for the adaptations made at the workplace if necessary.
  7. Support measures for employees: Employees with a disability can get financial support for travel expenses, work clothes and adapted tools or material support to enhance their independence.

For persons with a disability, unable to function in a regular workplace, there are separate settings called sheltered workplaces (beschutte werkplaats). In these workplaces, the person with a disability can work according to his own capacities.

According to the guidelines of the European Commission, the Flemish government approved the law of non-discrimination and equal work participation (27/11/2000). The law covers guidelines for equal rights in services for guidance in career opportunities, training and education and job counselling. In practice, this means employers can no longer discriminate people with disabilities based on their disability.
However, the law is not widely known and has had little repercussions on the employment of persons with a disability. This problem is enhanced by the vagueness in the definitions of discrimination. This definition should be operationalised before it can be put in practice.

Despite the law of non-discrimination and the special regulations for promotion of integrating people with a disability in regular workplaces, persons with a disability are still less active throughout there career. Most recent figures (up until 2002) (E.Samoy, 2004) show on average, people with a disability are 20 % less active than people without a disability. This number varies, from 50 % for severely disabled to 10 % for mildly disabled people.

Mieke Van lent

http://www.inclusivesports.org/countries/belgium.htm

Sources
Handicap en Arbeid, Overzicht van Ontwikkelingen (1999-2004), Update Augustus 2004, Erik Samoy
Vademecum van de maatregelen voor tewerkstelling van gehandicapte werknemers. Bijgewerkt tot 1 oktober 2003
http://www.vlafo.be/
http://www.gripvzw.be/
http://www.vlaanderen.be/
http://www.inclusiefonderwijs.be/
http://www.kbs-frb.be/

 

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