‘Inclusion’ refers to the state of diverse people recognizing each other’s individuality and needs and working and living together in a society. The idea of ‘inclusion’ as a state of ‘mutual recognition’ and ‘symbiosis’ emerged in the 1980s. It has gained increasing attention today, particularly since it was formally addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015. However, when focusing on inclusion, it must be noted that the concept has more than one meaning. It is a multifaceted idea that encompasses the various needs of the persons, organizations and communities concerned in each context and what is needed for diverse people to live together without conflict. Special education needs (SEN) is one of the people’s needs and inclusion can have different meanings in real societies depending on the multiplicity of SEN. Here, the author defines ‘multiplicity’ as multiple meanings in the diverse contexts where people live and have varying needs. To clarify the structure of multiplicity of SEN, this paper reports on a case study of the policy and community perceptions of people with hearing impairment in Nepal. The research includes an analysis of policies targeting people with disabilities and interviews with people with hearing disabilities, their education, and the stakeholders in it. Nepal has a diverse social and cultural background. As a result, unlike other countries it took a SEN-conscious approach to integrated education as ‘inclusive/special needs education (SNE)’ from the outset of inclusive education development. The results reveal that the diversity of SEN is not only due to the physical factor of disability but also to the difficulties and disadvantages caused by the variety of social contexts. Social disadvantages and difficulties, more than hearing impairment, hinder people’s inclusion through learning in school and working in society. Although the analysis in this paper is limited to the communities surrounding deaf and hard-of-hearing people in Nepal, the issue of the multiple contexts of SEN is of great interest when considering not only equality of educational opportunity but also the issue of equity in meaningful learning.
Keywords: inclusive education, special needs education, special education needs, Nepal, equity, equality, inclusion, multiplicity, hearing impairments