Children with disabilities are likely to more vulnerable to different forms of violence than any other children. They face many types of social, environmental, psychological and physical discrimination and barriers. The Peace Gong bureaus facilitated different consultations on the issue in different parts of India.
Society needs to be more sensitive
Students taking part in the Bhopal round of Consultations, held on November 20 and organised by the voluntary organisation Arushi and The Peace Gong Bhopal team, stressed that the Government must strictly enforce the law against those using disabled children as beggars, and take action against those who badly treat them. The participants wanted the entire society to collectively work towards ensuring this.
Another vital point made was that children with disabilities – of any category — should be given vocational training so that they have a livelihood, and the confidence and ability to go about in society with dignity. The participants stressed on the need to lobby at different forums to ensure availability of appropriate assistive devices for children with different disabilities as per their respective age groups.
The consultation focused on children with visual impairment — that is, the blind and persons with low vision — who need to be provided text books and enriching learning material in appropriate accessible format like Braille, audio, and books with bigger printed letters. Children with low vision should also be trained on how to use their residual vision.
The children, mostly from Anand Vihar Higher Secondary School – Bhopal, also came up with the following suggestions to protect the rights of children with disability:
- We shall work towards ensuring Right to Education for children with disabilities;
- We shall create awareness in society regarding hidden potentials of children with disabilities – and ensure their different special needs are fulfilled; &
- We shall befriend children with disabilities — and facilitate their inclusion.
Group discussions and different stimulating activities were organised during the day-long session, which helped the children realise that they have to understand that children with disabilities also have the right to get proper education, to play, and to have fun.
Another important point made was that people should not discriminate with the children with disabilities, and we must to treat them with the same sort dignity like we would with anyone else.
Amongst the many demands voiced by participants, the notable ones were about the Government making available talking books to help the visually impaired in their studies — and for all categories of disabled students, the Government should train teachers who use appropriate tools and methods to teach in better, and more interesting, ways.
Many participants observed that the Government should be more concerned about the disabled – making policies that provide more jobs, and ensure fair treatment to the disabled child in school, hospitals and all public places.
‘Social equality, justice means providing equal opportunities’
Segregating children with disabilities from their families or communities is wrong, and separating such children was a violation of their rights. This was the general consensus of a consultation organised by The Peace Gong — in association with the Welfare Association for Blind, Takyel, Imphal – on the topic ‘Stepping up Protection of Children with Disabilities’.
Some 40 children and youth with visual impairment, along with their teachers, and 30 other children took part in the consultation.
The young participants came up with several recommendations after a detailed discussion:
- The visually impaired students should be part of inclusive education system in general schools – instead of concentrating on building separate schools. This would reduce prevailing discrimination between general students and the differently-abled.
- The ‘Right to Education’ Act is also for the differently-abled children, so they should not be deprived of these rights.
- For the visually challenged, their sense of hearing is the main help to explore the world. But increasing noise pollution – with rising number of vehicles and crowds – are hampering their ability. So there is a vital need to generate mass awareness to reduce all kinds of pollution.
- The white cane, the demonstrative symbol of persons with visually impairment, is a vital equipment that helps them to walk out of their homes – and they have a right to use it. But, very often, the families of such people are financially unsound — thus depriving the visually challenged children and youth of proper education. So, the Government needs to focus on their necessities — like providing Readers and Writers, along with proper educational aids.
- Three per cent of the total number of vacancies are reserved for the differently-abled in every education institute and job sector. But unfortunately, very few students or persons of this category apply – proving there is a lack of awareness amongst them.
- To encourage the differently-abled persons to visit tourist spots and historical places, the Government should exempt them, and their guide, from paying any entrance fee.
- Promises of giving support and providing Rights and Facilities to students with disabilities should be converted into action by the Government — meaning the senior officers and leaders.
Girls with disabilities most vulnerable
Girls with disabilities face far greater exclusion from different opportunities in life than boys. The more the severity of the disability, the greater is the problem of the girl child. That was the consensus of the Guwahati (Assam) round of Consultation organised by Surovi Shishu Panchayat in collaboration with The Peace Gong at Hatisheela Ganesh Mandir, Guwahati on 14 November 2014.
The 30 young participants who took part in the consultation — held to mark the Children’s Day celebrated all over India — agreed that the differently-abled girls were the most vulnerable. They felt that girls whose safety and security are a matter of concern, are in a worse position if they have any type of disability. The discussions bought out the fact that the barriers are enormous for differently-abled girls.
According to Marjina Begum, a college student from Amgaon, Guwahati, there was less possibilities of girls with disabilities getting education than boys with disabilities. “We know of families who think these girls are a curse. They don’t have any rights in their families,” she said.
Susila Das, a 15-year old girl from Ekrabarhi, Panikhaiti said she knew a few girls in her area who were forced to stay in one corner of their own homes — while the families pay no attention to their pitiable condition.
Dileep Subedi, a volunteer with Surovi, said this was due to poor awareness amongst parents and the community. “Girls who are disabled are likely to face greater challenges in getting livelihood opportunities than boys,” added Tahura Khatun, a facilitator and mentor of Surovi.
The participants expressed concern about the need to help differently-abled girls to raise their voices against different forms of discrimination. To end the victimization of girls with disabilities, the following recommendations were made by the participants at the consultation:
- Awareness generation among parents on issues and concerns of these girls with disabilities;
- Support and protection from the neighbourhood and community;
- Encouragements and opportunities from all concerned;
- Equal rights, facilities and humanitarian assistance from the adults;
- Getting a cooperative atmosphere all the time; &
- Special schemes and policies.
Confident, tech-savvy & smart
As part of The Peace Gong consultation, we went to the Aligarh Muslim University’s Ahmadi School for the Blind for an interaction session on the topic: ‘Stepping Up Protection of Children with Disabilities’. After a warm welcome, the first thing that grabbed our attention was the discipline the students with visual impairment maintained. Generally, such discipline we see in very strict schools. But to them, it came naturally.
The topic of discussion got a very good response from the students. Many of them, after listening us, showed interest about working with The Peace Gong. A girl of Class 7 asked us what all could she write about? When asked what she wants to write about, the answer was, “I want to write my autobiography.”
Inviting the girl student to become a member of The Peace Gong team, our coordinator Mumtaz Ahmad Numani said to the girl, “We appreciate your vision. Do something great that makes all of us feel proud of you. At present, we are going to record your voice, and wish you all the very best.”
The discussions were primarily based on the techniques and mechanisms these students used for study purposes. They have a different type of board for doing maths — and to write they use an instrument that has a pin and a sheet, and a board on which the sheet is fixed.
The white cane is used as a walking stick that vibrates when it strikes with an uneven object, or detects an uneven object near them. Nowadays, the students have been provided with an electronic device which records their class lectures, and plays them back again later – when they can prepare detailed notes.
The students candidly revealed some problems they face because of being visually challenged. “One problem is understanding the geometrical proportions, which is related to visualising the question. Otherwise, we love to do the maths too,” they said.
The school has been successfully training the students in all aspects of the curriculum. The students are aware about the new instruments now available to write or type in Braille, and showed a keen desire to use them one day for higher education.
Our visit made us realise that this school is amazing in its own way — not only guiding the visually challenged students in study matters, but also providing love and affection to each – like a family.
All the children came forward to speak confidently. Their teachers have trained them well, so that they can walk with us side by side.
At the end of the consultation, we had learnt a lesson — that seldom do we think how smart they really are, and it is high time the world comes to know this.
Image: Flickr via dfataustralianaid