There is a large section of humanity that is differently abled — physically, mentally, intellectually and academically. Providing a safe and secure environment for them to function is the responsibility of society, civic bodies and that of polity. Empowering them will lead to a better life and helping them acquire education will improve their quality of life.
One of the things that draw one’s attention while travelling abroad is how effectively spaces have been created in the western countries for the differently abled masses. In India there are many laws and schemes enabling the disabled but there is low visibility of these efforts and development.
According to the World Bank, disabled children in India are five times more likely to be out of school than the normal children. It wasn’t until recently that school authorities passed laws enforcing the creation of ramps and wheel chair access to toilets and drinking water facilities.
Even those children, who graduate from primary school, rarely complete high school. Statistically speaking, 52% of adult disabled people are still illiterate. Disability of various forms can exhibit itself in a classroom – physical, sensory, intellectual impairment, deafness, blindness, muteness.
There are several government schemes providing 100% assistance for education, supply of educational aids/equipment, allowance of books, transport, readers for blind children and escorts for severely orthopaedic handicapped children.
Inclusive education is a word being used often but the deep understanding and the various challenging aspects of the word are still being understood. Inclusion involves a process of increased participation of disabled children in mainstream activities, Inclusion involves building capacity among the school staff with a positive attitude, Inclusion involves preparing friendly infrastructure, inclusion involves providing tailor-made instructional material and design, it involves revisiting policies and reforms so as to update and improve.
Technology support for specific instructional design and delivery is available in the market. Several technological advances make the day-to-day life of disabled people easy — gadgets that assist reading and hearing, ATM machines for disabled people, speaking phones, computers and a range of household products.
Several companies have HR policies that support the employment of the disabled and there are a lot of career and employment opportunities in the disability sector. The horizon is positive, the focus had been established, the laws and policies have been defined and the voluntary sector is already engaged. What is now needed is for all the paper work to be translated to real ground-level action, so that the schemes and benefits reach the beneficiary and create a high visibly of Indians being a sensitive society.
Manjula pooja shroff
The writer is an entrepreneur and educationist