Swept Away


Swept Away

Shelley Moore tells a story about the time she took part in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day, 200 km bike ride from Vancouver to Seattle.

Near the end of Day 1, she found herself by the side of the road, exhausted, unable to pedal any further, out of cell range, and in the rain.

As she prepared for a long, uncomfortable night, a van pulled up. The driver announced that his vehicle was the sweeper van, there to deliver riders to camp at the end of the day. Shelly got inside, found a pillow, and promptly fell asleep.

Throughout Day 2 of the ride, she could take comfort in the knowledge that the sweeper van would be there for her.

What does a sweeper van have to do with education?

For Moore, a special educator and teacher-consultant on inclusion, it illustrates the way Universal Design for Learning principles benefit everyone. “None of those supports were designed for me,” she says of the van, the pillow, explaining that the pillow was to support an injured limb, the van for someone suddenly ill, injured — or about to go into labour. But ultimately, it supported her.

Similarly, an inclusive and accessible classroom allows everyone to be together and supported – “even if we start and end in different places,” says Moore. Accessibility isn’t about adding complexity, it’s having supports designed for a few, but available for all.

“Everything we learn is a foundation. It’s not linear as much as it is layered.” This approach fits well with QUIO’s Learning Maps, as they provide a framework to develop layers of learning rather than more traditional forms of assessment, like rubrics, she says.

For students with developmental and cognitive disabilities it’s not that the gap is so big… it’s just a new starting point, says Moore.

Education today is vastly different from the past, when the goal was to make everyone the same, says Moore. “That may have worked for pumping out factory workers.” It’s time to change our assumptions about students with special needs, adds Moore.

For Moore, inclusion isn’t charity; it isn’t even about doing the right thing. It’s about supporting all the kids in the class. We’re creating learning opportunities for students because of diversity, not in spite of it.

If you’d like to hear the sweeper van story in Shelley’s own words, you can watch a video of her talk, presented at the 2015 BCSSA Spring Forum on YouTube: https://youtu.be/or1C64P4XNc.

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