5 October 2023

"Leaving No One Behind: ASEAN Inclusive Learning Environment" AUN-DPPnet's Latest Book Bridges Gap to Inclusive Higher Education

Ninnart Ratanasukhon
AUN Programme Officer;

The “Towards an Inclusive Learning Environment (TILE) for Students with Disabilities (SWDs) in Higher Education in ASEAN Countries” Project was launched by AUN-DPPnet in 2017 as one of its efforts to support ASEAN society in the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to create an inclusive barrier-free learning environment for students with disabilities (SWDs) in ASEAN higher education institutions.

One of the initiatives under this mission is the evaluation of ASEAN higher education institutions’ institutional frameworks and physical facilities to assist students with disabilities in their access to higher education.

In 2021, with nine principal investigators and four co-researchers from four leading ASEAN universities of Universiti Malaya, Mahidol University, Ateneo de Manila University, and Viet Nam National University; AUN-DPPnet put forward the first phase of this initiative with the launching of the book “The Policy, Legal and Institutional Framework of Inclusive Higher Education in ASEAN Countries.” The book provides a comprehensive picture of the legal and institutional mechanisms that are here to drive disability rights advocacy in the context of ASEAN higher education institutions and also formulates a general framework for best practices to create inclusive learning environments in higher education institutions in the ASEAN region.


Prof. Dr. Yahaya Ahmad, Director of the AUN-DPPnet

As a continuation of this project, Prof. Dr. Yahaya Ahmad, Director of the AUN-DPPnet, together with the representatives of students with disabilities from Universiti Malaya, proudly presented the second book, “Leaving No One Behind: ASEAN Inclusive Learning Environment,” at the 6th ASEAN+3 Rectors’ Conference on 20 September 2023, with the presence of Professor Dato' Ir. Dr. Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor, Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Malaya, Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, Executive Director of the ASEAN University Network, and all the distinguished leaders and representatives from ASEAN+3 University Network Member Universities.

With the first book laying out the policy, legal, and institutional foundation for the creation of an inclusive learning environment, the second book tackles the implementation of these legal and institutional tools on the ground level.

As ASEAN countries are considered ‘latecomers’ in the barrier-free and universal design culture as advocated by the West, many countries are still struggling with the gaps between policy, legal declarations, and actual implementation. The book aims to study this gap as present in ASEAN higher education institutions and recommend inclusive policies or guidelines accordingly.

Under the collaboration of 21 researchers from four universities, the book assesses the implementation of legal and institutional frameworks in four case study universities under three assessment criteria:

  1. Physical access needs
  2. Teaching and learning needs
  3. Campus Experience

Physical needs refer to the accessibility of campus’ physical facilities and buildings to students with disabilities. Teaching and learning needs refer to administrative staff and faculties’ commitment to facilitating barrier-free curriculum and services to students with disabilities. Last but not least, campus experience refers to the all-encompassing support students with disabilities receive from the pre-induction period to course delivery and to employability.

The study was conducted with participation from students with disabilities, grouped into three categories: visually-impaired, hearing-impaired, and mobility-impaired students, to precisely identify their needs. The study also employed an audit approach in assessing the ‘accessibility,’ ‘usability,’ and ‘reachability’ of physical facilities within the case study campuses, with teams of able-bodied and disabled inspectors carrying out the task.

In the launching ceremony, Prof. Yahaya expressed his hope that the three criteria assessed in the book would serve to inform policymakers and education providers in ASEAN to bring positive change to the needs of students with disabilities in the region.