Ekaterina Molyukova became one of the SEE’s Independent Professionals in 2016. As a Project Manager at Russian disability non-governmental organization Perspektiva, Ekaterina focuses on assistive technologies in inclusive education.
In Russia, children with disabilities received access to equal education at the end of 2012, when changes in the Federal Law on Education came into effect. In this context, Ekaterina stood to have a very fruitful exchange of expertise and ideas with her Americans colleagues, many of whom have been developing inclusive schools for a few decades.
In October 2016, Ekaterina went to the US as part of SEE’s Independent Professionals Project Initiative. In Washington DC, she visited PYXERA Global, an international non-governmental organization that facilitates global engagement and provides free access to education for all children through different Education Resources Centers.
In Virginia and Illinois, Ekaterina saw inclusive practices firsthand while attending schools specifically equipped for children with disabilities. Ekaterina says this was the most valuable experience of her trip:
“I was able to ask teachers specific questions regarding inclusive education and the role that [assistive] technologies play in an inclusive classroom. Thus, I feel more confident now answering numerous questions from teachers and parents of children with disabilities in Russia,” said Ekaterina.
The trip to the US helped Ekaterina confirm that the difficulties that she and her colleagues are experiencing in Russia are not unique. The American specialists with whom Ekaterina met said that there were also misunderstandings from teachers and parents during the first phases of moving towards more inclusive education. Today, looking at the result that the American experts have, Ekaterina is certain that she and her colleagues are on the right path.
Upon her return to Russia, Ekaterina conducted a series of webinars for more than 380 professionals. Moreover, she shared various materials prepared by American specialists about inclusive education with Russian experts. For example, there was an individual school plan of a child with disabilities, in which one could find all the details regarding assistive technologies, as well as an evaluation form that teachers can utilize while grading works of children with disabilities.
However, the cooperation with the American colleagues did not end with a simple exchange of materials and contact information. While visiting a school in Wilmette, Illinois, Ekaterina met Tracy Parent, an Assistive Technologies Coordinator and mother of three children, one of whom has autism. Tracy was later able to come to Russia to meet with various NGOs’ representatives, school management, teachers, and parents of children with disabilities.
While visiting Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and Kiev in June 2017, Tracy conducted a seminar titled “Assistive Technologies from A to Z,” in which she presented about various methods for making the process of providing education for children with health issues and disabilities easier for them. Overall, more than 300 people attended Tracy’s seminars.
According to Ekaterina, many teachers and some school administrations assume that modern assistive technologies would be too expensive to implement. However, Tracy illustrated through her personal experience that inclusive education can be simple and affordable:
In addition to various free online applications, sometimes even a simple weighted pencil can help a child with disabilities. That is why Tracy’s seminars and materials provided by Ekaterina were incredibly useful for parents who have kids with health problems and disabilities.
Ekaterina would like to continue collaborations with American specialists working on projects in inclusive education. The beginning of a new academic year is ahead in Russia, so Ekaterina and her colleagues from Perspektiva are getting ready to continue the implementation of assistive technologies for children with disabilities in Russian schools.