Another dot in the blogosphere?

Every day

Posted on: November 15, 2021

Video source

This CNA video featured Jonathan Tiong, a “disabled” valedictorian of NUS’s Class of 2021. He might be conventionally disabled, but I consider him “differently abled”.

He is an inspiring and timely reminder for students of the ICT for Inclusion modules I will be facilitating in December. In particular, I will highlight the every day technologies like the Internet that has enabled him to study and work. Jonathan said:

… the pandemic has brought about the benefits for people especially with physical disabilities because it takes away a lot of our limitations… just give me the laptop and Internet and I can do a lot of things.

He has a message for the rest of “abled” society: 

… society’s way of defining success should change for people with disabilities. I think the only reason why I’ve got the attention that I have… is because I’ve met the traditional markers of success. Good degree. Good job, prestigious company.

Jonathan added: 

…we need to acknowledge the fact that living with a disability is hard in itself. And every day, the people with disabilities out there are winning their own battles…

Digging deeper, his message is about how we still focus on equality — the traditional emphasis opportunities and success. We need to shift our gaze and efforts to equity, i.e., giving greater access to those need it more.

Why is there still resistance to educational technologies in SPED and inclusive classrooms? I sense that many of the pre- and in-service teachers who take my modules fear the parents who worry about the fabled “screen time” monster. They might also have bought in to the media’s narrative that mobile devices do more harm than good instead of following the research.

In this CNA article, Jonathan also provided another insight about the barriers of rules and money. Commenting on his final year of study during the pandemic and his current employment:

“A lot of the time we are told by administrators that: ‘Oh we can’t do this because – rules.’ Or ‘because we cannot lor.’

“But a lot of accommodations are actually a mindset thing,” he said. “People seem to have this concept that if you want to accommodate the disabled, we need billions of dollars. I don’t think that’s true.”

For instance, being allowed to work remotely at his present job has not cost his employer anything, he said. “It’s a matter of will and decision-making.”

My agenda is simple: To challenge them to think of every day technologies as enablers for learners in special or inclusive classrooms. These students need more and better access to these tools, not less. Enabling and educational technologies do not have to cost much or anything at all. The real barriers are stubbornness and ignorance.

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