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Focus Areas

International Education: Disabilities Inclusive Education

Photo by USAiD/Cambodia All Children Learning project

Facilitating High-Quality Learning Environments for All Children

In collaboration with funders such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and host governments at national and sub-national levels, RTI implements programs that promote equitable, quality, and inclusive education for all children. At the heart of our activities is a commitment to Universal Design for Learning (UDL): an approach to teaching and learning that explicitly supports all learners, especially those who are struggling, by giving children options for how they receive information and how they demonstrate what they know and can do and that finds ways to include and engage all children in a classroom.  

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Inclusive ​Education ​Teaching Materials 

All the teaching and learning materials we co-design and co-develop with local stakeholders embed best-practice UDL principles, differentiated teaching strategies that enable teachers to tailor instruction to children’s needs, and opportunities to build social-emotional skills. They also portray and engage all children—girls and boys, children with disabilities, and children from all social, religious, and linguistic sub-groups—in empowering and inclusive ways.    

Innovative Disabilities Screening 

We are adapting and, where needed, developing low-cost and open-source tools to enable teachers and schools to reliably screen students for disabilities in low- and middle-income countries. As examples, we are integrating screening tools for vision and hearing loss into the Tangerine​​® suite of tools and have piloted the use of easy-to-administer assessments to screen for students who might have dyslexia. Using these latter assessments as part of an Early Grade Reading Assessment can flag for teachers which students would benefit from more explicit instruction in phonics.  

Applying Equitable Policies ​for Inclusive​ Education  

At the system-level, we use findings from national-scale disabilities-inclusive education sector assessments to help host governments refine their education sector plans. We also help governments develop and implement policies and mechanisms to achieve equitable and quality primary and secondary education for all children—an objective outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  

Project Highlights

Children in classroom

USAID Shobai Miley Shikhi (“Everyone Learns Together”) Activity in Bangladesh (2022–2027)

  • Exclusively focuses on improving education for children with disabilities. 
  • Builds capacity at all levels to provide quality inclusive education, especially at the upazilla (sub-district) level. 
  • Combats stigma and promotes inclusive education with parents and community members through community courtyard meetings, parent meetings, and fairs.  
Indonesian girls sit together and read from textbooks.

USAID’s All Children Reading–Asia (ACR–Asia) (2016–2023)

  • Developed and piloted a prototype for remotely assessing sign language and reading skills.  
  • Worked with the Public Association of Disabled People “Mehrbakhsh” in Tajikistan to print large font books and textbooks in braille for Grade 1 through 4. 
  • Conducted a multi-country review of the scope of USAID’s disability-inclusive early grade education programming throughout Asia. 
  • Redesigned USAID’s Early Grade Reading Barometer by selecting color combinations appropriate for those who are colorblind and/or have low vision, providing alternative text for all images, and adding keyboard-only navigation features to improve accessibility.  
Young children participate in an early education project in Cambodia.
Photo by Thomas Cristofoletti

USAID Cambodia Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) Activity (2020–2025)

  • Enhances nurturing care for children from birth to 5 years, including children with developmental delays and other disabilities.   
  • Provides appropriate care and support for children with developmental delays and disabilities by increasing Cambodia’s capacity for screening and detecting delays and disability in young children. 
  • Improves specialized care and support services and strengthens social inclusion for children with disabilities. 
Photo by Daniel Emanuel for USAID Jifunze Uelewe Project

USAID’s Tanzania Jifunze Uelewe Activity (2021–2025)

  • Expands efforts to conduct in-school vision and hearing screening for all primary school children.  
  • Developed an early grade assessment in braille and sign language.  
  • Provides classroom resource kits for children with low vision and/or hearing loss. 
  • Trains teachers from specialized schools for disabilities to serve as resource persons for inclusive classrooms. 
Kenyan children use sign language during a reading class.
Photo by Amina Jasho

USAID's Tusome (“Let’s Read”) Early Grade Reading Activity (2014–2023)

  • Supported Kenyan students with disabilities by adapting materials into braille.  
  • Distributed adapted teacher guides to address the specific needs of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.  
  • Provided targeted training to all Grade 1-3 teachers across the country on how to provide quality instruction for students with disabilities, with additional support from instructional coaches. 
  • Developed teaching and learning materials to ensure inclusivity of students with disabilities. 
  • Conducted a nationwide assessment to establish levels of performance of Grade 2 students who were either deaf or blind.
A teacher works with a girl in the Cambodia All Children Learning program.

USAID/Cambodia—All Children Learning (Cambodia ACL) (2018–​​2022)

  • Piloted low-cost hearing and vision screening by teachers at scale.  
  • Strengthened capacity for clinical referral services and screened 5,500 children in two districts in Kampong Thom for vision and hearing loss, providing referrals for additional assessment and glasses and/or hearing aids as needed.  
  • Taught teachers, parents, and both in-school and out-of-school children Cambodian Sign Language and equipped classrooms with electronic tablets loaded with CSL stories and other teaching and learning materials.  

USAID’s MERIT: Malawi Early Grade Reading Improvement Activity (2015–2020)

  • Worked with District Education Managers nationwide to enhance sensitivity to children with disabilities and explore the use of assistive technologies for students with disabilities to increase learning. 
  • Adapted core teaching and learning materials into braille and, with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s Department of Special Needs, printed and distributed 2,660 copies of braille books and 9,500 copies of large print books to specialized segregated and mainstream schools.   
A teacher holds a phone used for hearing tests at a school in Ethiopia.

USAID’s Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed Technical Assistance (2012–2018)

  • Created guidelines for developing materials for students with severe vision impairment, and adapted all Grade 2 student textbooks in mother tongue languages into braille. 
  • Implemented a resource package in mother tongue to all teacher colleges of education that was based on UDL principles. 
  • Designed and implemented a successful intervention featuring smart phone–based screening tools to identify vision and hearing impairment and provide instructional support tools for reading instruction. 

RTI Press Collection

Our series of guides provides practical strategies for including people with disabilities in educational settings in low- and middle-income countries.

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