Education for Students with Disabilities in India

Ruchi Bhatia
Social Sustainability & Design
13 min readFeb 17, 2018

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The only Disability in life is a bad attitude -Scott Hamilton

India has majority youth population suffering from single or multiple disabilities for whom pursuing education is a major challenge. Different combinations of structural factors (such as caste, gender, religion, poverty etc.) affect the disability more making the survival of people with disability altogether surpass these factors, but the broad commonalities that shape the lives of people with disabilities in India transcend these divisions. Their lives are largely marked by poverty and marginalization from mainstream social processes.

A recent report by World Bank (2007), for example, noted that children with disability are five times more likely to be out of school than children belonging to scheduled castes or scheduled tribes (SC or ST). Moreover, when children with disability do attend school they rarely progress beyond the primary level, leading ultimately to lower employment chances and long-term income poverty [3,page III]

Government Policies and NGOs in the field of Disabilities

Saugamya Pustakalya and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

Government has implemented several policies since last two decades concerning the educational reforms for disabled. One of these is Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which aims at free education for disabled children of age range 6–14.

‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is Government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) this program aims to give free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6–14 years age group’ The Equal Opportunities and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 was comprehensive breakthrough legislation that provided for children with disabilities [1,page II]. Free Inclusive education, is an integral part of SSA, and make ‘education for all’ a reality by 2010. But it’s not yet complete.

For children with disabilities, the government has special schools are located in urban areas and run by voluntary organizations. ‘At present there are 3000 special schools for differently able children are operating across the country. Out of them, approximately 900 are marked for the hearing impaired, 400 for the visually impaired, 1000 for the mentally retarded and the remaining 700 for the children with physical disabilities. 40 percent disability of any such particular types is ideal for identification and certification for admission in special schools’.[2]

The need for disability certificates:

Disability certificate makes a remarkable difference in the life of a differently able person. More than 40% disability of person can gain this certificate, the certificate makes its holder eligible for various state and central government schemes, scholarships, and even an unemployment allowance. Only Medical boards of district civil hospitals can issue this disability certificates.In reality, over half of the people with the disability did not have disability certificates [3].

Inclusive schooling:

During our research, we found that inclusive schooling is the best practice that promotes inclusive learning and takes a step in teacher training that helps primary school teachers in the classroom to identify and support the children. Based on research, practices were drawn from five states. After discussions with teachers, parents, children with disabilities and their peer group the best school practice can decide. In India, inclusive education is still in progress and sometimes it is difficult to measure good practice. For good practice we came across three elements: creating inclusive culture; producing inclusive policies, and evolving inclusive practices. The Inclusive culture was analyzed by studying the understanding of teachers, parents, and children. Enrollment policies of the government were examined to identify which are the inclusive policies. Inclusive practices contain teacher training program to create awareness about new methodologies material for the benefit of students. Such practices were possible only when the program includes best teacher training, provide child-friendly curriculum, suitable teaching methodologies and including parents in this program.

Sugamya Pustakalaya :

While doing research we came across Sugamya Pustakalaya, which is an online library that contains books which are accessible to the blind people, to become the member of this library person needs to provide disability certificate, it may be validated by the librarian before approving membership.

This library is aligned to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. In this library different books in different languages are available for users.

Benefits for user:

People with Print Disability: Without any help, disabled people can use this library. A quick search on the Sugamya Pustakalaya may give him information about the book which person wants. The person can read books on any device of his choice- mobile phones, tablets, computers, DAISY players or even in braille using refresh-able braille displays. On request, the person can get a braille copy through member organizations which has braille presses.

School/College/Library: School, college, and the library can subscribe to the online library which gives an entire collection of the Sugamya Pustakalaya to their members or students with print disabilities. Institute can also give accessible format books to their students so that students from different educational institutions can access the same.

Production House: Production houses can increase their reader base by including persons with print disabilities, sharing accessible formats of their publications to be put up on Sugamya Pustakalaya.

NGO: NGOs can begin a library service for persons by becoming a member of the library and give them access to books which are provided by the Sugamya Pustakalaya.

Corporate: Their employees can help reach out to users with print disabilities. The IT industry can also help with technology development to fill gaps in authoring and reading of digital content in all Indian languages.

The Sugamya Pustakalaya has books in accessible formats. These include DAISY audio, DAISY full text, E PUB, Word format (DOC/DOCX), HTML, BRF (Braille-ready files), Text and RTF (Braille-ready files), Text and RTF.

Sugamya Pustakalaya has a facility as the offline distribution of books. After finding the book, a person can request to the library for that and it directly delivers it to person by hand or post. Organizations can also receive book requests from members by phone or personal visit [4]

Experience :

  1. By using this library, students get motivated.
  2. Students can learn various subjects on one platform.
  3. Teachers also get special books for self-training to teach students.

Gaps :

  1. Very few know about this library.
  2. Need disability certificate to enroll in the library and certification takes time.
  3. This library available for only blind people.

APD’s Community Learning Center:

APD’s Community Learning Center program has been operational since 2007. Majority of children enroll from urban slums and low-income families. Trained staff work with differently able children. There are three centers of APD’s community learning in Bangalore — one is at Ulsoor, second is at Lingarajapuram and the third one is at the Annaswamy School in Frazer town.

The major focus is to give access to basic rights through inclusion schooling and help them for giving equal education.

- APD’s conduct awareness program for family and community.

- Training and skill development program for the students for their better future.

- Prepare students with the help of trained staff to encourage students to join mainstream or special schools

Road Map of APD:

APD’s Community Learning Center work starts from Identification and enrollment of differently abled children. Their workers conduct home visits, surveys to identify severely differently able children in the age group of 3–13 years. They give information about the center to their families and encourage them to enroll them in the centers. Half of the students in the center are enrolled by survey and by the home visit.

After enrollment they focus on Individuals education plan for the development of each child, the trained staff works on students behavioral modification and their progress.

Uniforms, books, and other learning material are provided by to students by the center. If necessary Transportation facility is also provided to the students.

Center conduct Learning activities which help students in better communication. They also conduct events to encourage students such as sports, art competitions which helps them in their overall development.

Therapy and mobility aid help a lot in progress of children. Clinical help is conducted with the support of parents and professionals. These children then get access to mobility aids and devices.

Capacity building is also the part of their program. During the year the CLC trained staff provides four training programs. — First two are the residential training programs which are conducted in the center, and other two are conducted outside the center which aims to give exposure to children.

Shradhanjali Integrated School:

Shradhanjali Integrated School works on the basis of inclusive practice, School was founded in 1973, they provide schooling from 1st -7th standard under the SSLC Board, Capacity of this School is up to 200 children. A ratio of children with disabilities and the non-disabled is 8:2 to promote inclusion.

SIS focus is on activity-oriented learning promoting sports, arts, and crafts to ensure all-round development. The school contains interactive classrooms which are powered by TATA ClassEdge. Overall development of students is the main goal of SIS.[3,page IV]

Majority of students at SIS come from financially backward families. SIS provides daily meals, books, uniforms, health check-up, transportation and adapted learning techniques supplement to the students.

Shradhanjali Integrated school

Inclusive Education

Need for Inclusive Education system

Inclusive education is defined as a learning environment where children with and without disabilities study in same class. Objective of inclusive education is making classrooms equitable for all students regardless of student’s differences. Inclusive education is child right it is not privilege. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act clearly states that all children with disabilities should be educated with non-disabled children of their own age and have access to the general education curriculum.

Modes Of Teaching in Inclusive Education system

There are different ways of teaching to amend curriculum to better suit the student expectations and needs, to include a more dynamic interaction between teachers and students. Teaching can be done in two ways, language oriented teaching and activity oriented teaching. Language oriented teaching is teaching through medium of language, it could be any language including sign language. The other mode of teaching is activity oriented teaching where students are learning by engaging in activities such as making things for tactile based learning. There are different modes of teaching for diverse disabilities: Visually impaired students learn through audio medium like screen reading, listening activities and braille; hearing impaired students learn by watching visuals, reading text and watching videos along with captioning and by using other technologies; and physically disabled students are taught by audio-visual and other new technologies. Modes of teaching and learning are done with help of assistive devices and technologies as mentioned in the above image.

Three major dimensions for inclusive education are:

Dimensions of Inclusive Education

1) Making inclusive Policies: The Government policies to promote inclusive education.

2) Creating Inclusive culture: This includes identification of need of an inclusive environment and sensitizing to the needs of children with disabilities by creating an appropriate learning environment for them in schools and homes. This also includes acceptance of potential and ability of children with disabilities by the society and family, relatives. They need to be a part of the “abled society” not a separate section of society termed as “special abled”.

3) Involving Inclusive practices: This involves the following parameters:

A) Accessibility: Schools should be close to community and disabled children’s residences and should have accessible infrastructure

B) Learning: The student teacher ratio should be maintained for children with disabilities. Resource teacher should be allotted in every school and general teachers, policy makers and educational department should be aware of the disabilities and their handling. Physiotherapist and occupational therapists should be present in schools.

C) Curriculum: Curriculum should be flexible to help children of different abilities. It should be prepared by the resource teachers and tested before implementing.

As a class workshop, in groups of four students (Anushri, Harita, Prashansa and Ruchi), we visited Enable India, an NGO in Bangalore for disabled people to understand their efforts in creating jobs for the disabled. This helped us in carrying our secondary research to understand the scenario of education of children with disabilities .As a reflection, we found that inclusive education is a better approach for children with disabilities than special schools to maintain social equity. Further, to support our research, we took the help of system mapping tools like experience map, journey map, storyboard to illustrate these issues.

Existing situation highlighted using experience map of stakeholders Students, teachers and parents:

Stories play an important role in bringing up the issues through stories of people of wide contexts. Thus we took two different scenarios to highlight the issues in our present education system for disabled.

Scenario 1: Meera is a regular mother who has a son Mohit studying in 7th grade. He has mild autism, so has problems in social interactions, but is a brilliant child. Mohit was not able to cope with his studies in the existing school because of which she decided to shift him to another school. The image explains the ordeal she faced during admission and even after admission too Mohit had troubles in the initial stage but eventually succeeded in making good connections through his passion in literature. He wins everyone’s hearts by his outstanding performance and sets an examples for not only autistic kids, but the other abled children and school staff to consider inclusive education.

A day in life of autistic child “Mohit”

Scenario 2: Shiela noticed that one day her son Rahul was not able to control his right hand properly while eating. After noticing similar patterns in other physical activities, Shiela got Rahul checked with a doctor and got to know that her son was in the initial stages of cerebral palsy. The social exclusion that Rahul and Shiela faced (friends, relatives) was draining them emotionally but was making them lose a hope of a better life. Even the school and tuitions that Rahul used to attend denied to carry forward with teaching him. Shiela used to stay awake at night regularly to attend to Rahul, as he experienced difficulties in sleeping with his progressing autism. Shiela always maintained an optimistic approach in the treatment of Rahul and used to devote all her time with him, despite her household and social engagements. One day she got to know that creative activities support motor functions and hence started designing creative forms of entertainment to uplift Rahul’s spirit- dance, music, painting and story-telling. She observed that Rahul was enjoying listening to music and gave a positive response to acoustic piano music. She decided to teach Rahul piano so that he feels that there was still much more to life. She somehow managed to convince a music teacher to educate Rahul. The efforts not only lead to Rahul learning piano, but excelling in it despite is disability. He soon was appreciated and accepted by all due to his new found potential and felt uplifted. One day he participated in a competition for disabled students and it set to make everyone feel ashamed of their act of excluding Rahul from their life and pursuing education.

“Storyboard explaining Rahul’s life after getting cerebral palsy”

Issues in Inclusive Schools

The above experience maps, storyboards and user journey clearly depict the following issues prevalent in the society for people with disabilities:

A) Most of the schools are still not practicing inclusive education and are not sensitive enough to the needs of the disabled. Methodology practiced to lower the dropout rate needs to be changed.

B) Parents play a very important role in uplifting and recognizing the need to identify their child’s potential.

C) Schools do not have proper trained teachers for handling the children with disabilities. Resource teachers are not present in all-inclusive schools.

D) Ratio of student teacher in inclusive schools is poor due to which teachers are not able attention to pay every individual.

E) Peers are not sensitive enough to their special needs friends and even bully or rebuke them in classrooms.

Disability is in the minds of people, which is a bigger challenge than handling physical disability itself.

Reflection and Learning

As a reflective article on critiquing the current scenario of education for children with disabilities in India, we believe that a major shortcoming is a lack is sensitivity in the society for this section. Sensitizing with the needs of disabled will not only improve the education system, but also make them a more inclusive section of society where we enable them to realize their potential and deserve what they are meant to. Friends and family should be the prime support of every child with disability. Also, overcoming the issues in implementing inclusive education is necessary. We have found that teachers need to be trained better to accommodate to the needs of disabled students. Children with disabilities should be able to benefit from the system a much abled students. The teacher to student ratio should be maintained so that children with disabilities should get special individual attention and they can cope with the studies. Curriculum should not be rigid and should customized for the children with disabilities to suit their requirements.

References:

[1 https://www.unicef.org/rosa/InclusiveInd.pdf

[2] http://vikaspedia.in/education/parents-corner/guidelines-for-parents-of-children-with-disabilities/education-for-children-with-special-needs

[3] https://scroll.in/article/833784/why-12-1-million-45-indians-with-special-needs-are-illiterate

[4] http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=149198

[5] http://apd-india.org/what-we-do/education/community-learning-centers
[6] http://apd-india.org/what-we-do/education/shradhanjali-integrated-school

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Ruchi Bhatia
Social Sustainability & Design

Human Centred Designer . Researcher . Artist . Philosopher . Traveller