Inclusion of people with disabilities into the mainstream society is a much neglected issue in a country like India where a large percentage of children (about 10%) are born with birth defects. These children with disabilities have to face enormous challenges in their lives to get a formal education. The percentage of people who are successful in integrating themselves with the activities of mainstream life is very less as compared to the total number of such people. Children with physical and mental disabilities (like autism, cerebral palsy , hearing and visual impairments,) have to face enormous challenges in their life to get formal education. The attitude of the mainstream schools towards the inclusion of students with disabilities is extremely disappointing. According to the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act, every child with a disability has equal right to free education in an appropriate environment till he attains the age of 18. But how many schools in our country are actually aware of the Act? Very few, it seems. Most of the school authorities are not equipped with the knowledge and attitude or skills required for successful inclusion. The parents of these children have to face rejection at each and every stage of their endeavor.
The very first hurdle to be overcome is the lack of awareness of the school authorities on the issue. Schools do not have the infrastructure-like ramps, restrooms with proper facilities, required for students with disabilities. The teachers are not equipped with the necessary skills to handle students. These schools readily advise the parents to admit their children to ‘special schools’. Some schools even go to the extent of asking for extra money for the special care that these children would need. Also, even though some schools do take in these children, they never try to accommodate him/her and make no provisions for revising the curriculum, restructuring the examination system or training teachers to properly implement this ‘inclusion’ in practice. In addition to this, there is a lot of negative attitude of the parents of the other students themselves regarding the admission of children with disabilities. These children often become victims of petty cruelties of people.
This scenario in our country needs to change. People need to be made aware of the causes of developmental disabilities and capacity needs to be created among parents, schools, and community-based organizations. There should be a clear cut admission policy regarding the admission of students with disabilities. The school infrastructure needs to be changed to accommodate the needs of these children. The teachers need to undergo extensive training to handle these children. The examination system needs a complete overhaul where the students with disabilities should be allowed to take their examinations with the help of computers equipped with special technology.
The disability act in India also needs to include people who have learning disabilities like dyslexia. More than 3 crore children in India suffer from this disability. The lack of awareness of the teachers and parents results in many drop-outs and under-achievement of people who are otherwise enormously talented. So, dyslexia should be under the purview of the PWD Act.
The services offered to children with disabilities in US are dynamically different from those offered to the children in India. The method of teaching is conducive to students with physical and mental disabilities. Professionals like speech pathologists, therapists, trained teachers use devices with a variety of software applications for people with disabilities which help people suffering from Autism and severe hearing problems to communicate. There are various assistive and augmentative communication technologies for the aid of people with disabilities. India needs to change this indifferent attitude towards the people with disabilities. The people should be sensitive to the issue and come together to make life easier for these children.
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