Over the past decade, major progress has been made towards increasing access to education generally, as well as for persons with autism specifically. However, in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools, impacting more than 90 per cent of students worldwide. The disruption in learning caused by the pandemic has reversed years of progress and has exacerbated inequalities in education. Many students with autism have been especially hard hit and studies show that they have been disproportionately affected by disruptions to routines, as well as services and supports that they rely on. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in 2015 provide a blueprint for addressing the major challenges facing the world, including inequality. Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as the foundation for improving people’s lives and reducing inequalities. The specific targets for SDG 4 refer to the need to ensure “equal access to all levels of education and vocational training” for persons with disabilities and building and upgrading education facilities that are disability sensitive and that provide “inclusive and effective learning environments for all.” This year‘s observance will address inclusive education in the context of SDG 4 – the promise and reality – through a virtual event that will include a moderated panel discussion, along with brief presentations by self-advocates, educators and other experts.
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