Making schools open their doors for disabled

 By the industrial revolution, societies across the globe realised the importance of education and countries started to plan and invest in designing their own systems. Today, the economic progress of a country depends a great deal on the strength of its education system.

There is realisation amongst every community of the role education plays in imparting skills, inculcating culture and value system, and enhanced opportunity for livelihood. There is little wonder that many of them demand opportunity for their children to attend schools and colleges.

However, a few groups have fallen through the cracks in the system and languish in backwardness. Persons with disability is one such group. Traditionally, their lack of limbs or a faculty has been pointed at as a limiting factor in their intellectual ability, leading to their exclusion from the system.

Several countries like India have made education a fundamental right, but have failed to ensure that it is granted to children with disability.
In recent times, there has been awareness amongst some sections in the education system to include children with disability, but it is hard to see schools opening their doors, and their hearts, to disabled children.

Moral and legal obligation
Admitting children with disability in schools, however, is becoming both moral and a legal obligation for our education system. It is at schools that our children learn the diversity of our society and the need for equality, justice and fairness. It is in the classrooms and playgrounds that our children learn dignity and respect for fellow human beings. Can this be achieved by excluding children with disability, whose perseverance and positive attitude often provide the living example of dignity and self respect for other children?
Two years ago, India signed and ratified United Nations Convention for the rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD), considered a watershed by several experts. As a result, the country has been preparing itself to approach disability issues from the rights perspective and, after efforts by organisations, the needs of children with disability have been included in the recently implemented Right To Education (RTE) Act. So, it will soon become obligatory for schools to admit children with disability.

In reality, no single school, no single teacher or administrator is averse to the idea of including children with disability. Still, there is clear lack of awareness about the thought process and the technology that would enable them to accommodate children with disability. Since most of them have not been personally acquainted with children with disability, they are often forced to think about the problems of having them in their classrooms.

It has been demonstrated in the last few years that technology can adequately compensate for the limitations posed by disability. The blind have their screen reader software to operate computers, the deaf  have sign language, the orthopaedic challenged have means finding access to places they have never entered before. This profusion of technology and thought process has opened up newer awareness that disability is not a sin or a stigma, but merely a condition that can be overcome with positive changes to the system.

Young Voices of India, a voluntary group of students and youngsters with disability working with LCD, are actively spreading the word on the need for inclusion of children with disability in India. Our aim is to make the general public and members of the education system such as school administrators, teachers and officials become aware of one of the most pressing needs of the disability community. By inclusion, schools will set the stage for empowerment of children with disability, who will become worthy contributors of the country’s economic development. Give them a chance to lead a dignified and self-reliant life and the benefit will be widespread.
(The writer belongs to the Young Voices, Bangalore)

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