Inclusion in adult education: There is still much to do

The starting point is clear. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities explicitly calls for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in adult education. But how can inclusion be realised? The project’s answer: Inclusion must be seen as a comprehensive task to organise educational opportunities for all adults with their diverse prerequisites, potentials and conditions. In this context, people with disabilities must be especially supported and barriers to participation dismantled.

In principle, adult education that creates a programme on the assumption that interested people will register is already discriminatory and not inclusive from the outset. All those who cannot participate for various reasons (e.g. due to limitations of mobility, senses or other e.g. cognitive limitations) are excluded. According to project coordinator Dr Michael Sommer from the Akademie Klausenhof, a prerequisite for participation is proactively inclusive programme planning. “Adult education is not only for those who can walk, hear and see well.” At the same time, care must be taken to ensure that the rooms are as barrier-free as possible, including, for example, the lighting or acoustics in the room, the intelligibility of the teaching staff or accessibility.

An important point is the qualification of the staff. Teachers should deal with inclusion in their training and be able to continue their education accordingly. It is necessary that appropriate curricula are developed and tested in the first place. In addition to inclusive didactics, inclusive education management is also part of this.

On the other hand, it also became clear in the project that inclusion is a great challenge for many adult education institutions. Too high a workload, too little public funding or poor pay for lecturers mean that the very small group of people with disabilities is hardly taken into account. “The best thing is to start with a small offer for people with disabilities, for example, a cooking class, in cooperation with a corresponding institution that already takes care of this group. That way you gain experience step by step and reduce fears and prejudices.” Inclusion is not witchcraft, but a matter of will and willingness.

The political framework conditions and public funding for inclusive courses pose a particular challenge. Often there are no special additional subsidies for the participation of people with disabilities. Every commitment thus becomes a financial loss for the institution.
In order to give suggestions on how inclusion in adult education can better succeed, the project has developed various materials: The analysis tool, which can be used to check one’s own potential, cooperation possibilities and the regional education market, as well as a guideline are aimed specifically at management. A comprehensive brochure with practical recommendations and an online learning tool are intended for the pedagogical teaching staff. This also includes a comprehensive checklist on accessibility. Finally, a policy paper deals with the political framework conditions in the respective countries and sets out concrete demands.

The project was funded by the Erasmus+ programme. The following partners participated: the European umbrella organisation for adult education EAEA and the German Association for Catholic Adult Education KEB, biv integrativ, which already works inclusively in adult education (Austria), the educational institutions KatHaz (Hungary), Geoss (Slovenia), Agora (Spain), Active Citizens Partnership (Greece) and Future in Perspective (Ireland). The products can all be used free of charge and can be accessed via the homepage