(GS2: Vulnerable action of the population)
- As per the Census 2011, there are 8 million persons with disabilities in India, making up 2.21 per cent of the total population.
- The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment established the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) to ensure focused attention to policy issues related to persons with disabilities and work towards their empowerment.
- There has been no mention of disabled persons in the constitution and the preamble.
Status of Children with Disabilities in India:
- A UNESCO 2019 report mentioned that CWD comprises 7% of the total child population in India (Census 2011).
- As per the report, Children with disabilities are faced with physical, institutional, socioeconomic and communication barriers from an early age, more than 70% of five-year-olds with disabilities in India have never attended any educational institution.
Barriers to Accessibility:
- Inaccessible and Inappropriate Infrastructure: Several barriers impede the participation of CWD in accessing educational opportunities such as inaccessible school buses; inaccessible facilities in schools (drinking water facilities, canteens and toilets); and inappropriate infrastructure in classrooms (uncomfortable seating, slippery flooring and low illumination).
- Misinformed Attitudes and Perceptions: Misinformed attitudes and perceptions among parents, teachers, staff, and communities further influence the child’s emotional development.
- Lack of Teaching and Learning Practices: The lack of teaching and learning practices that integrate inclusive technologies and digital equipment to engage the child, such as assistive devices, are additional challenges.
- Article 21A of the Constitution and the Right to Education Act, 2009 outline the fundamental right to education and the right to have free and compulsory education for children aged 6-14 years.
- The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has adopted a ‘zero rejection policy’. It emphasises that every child with special needs is provided quality education.
- India has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The government launched the Accessible India Campaign in 2015. An important pillar of this campaign is accessibility to the built environment.
- There is a need to develop inclusive and accessible schools. They will not challenge perceptions about children with disabilities and the associated discrimination. It will also help in actualising the zero-rejection policy in schools.
- A multi-pronged participatory approach for providing an enabling environment for the empowerment of future citizens is needed. It will ensure that stakeholders in the school ecosystem collectively work towards promoting accessibility and inclusion in schools. It includes awareness and sensitisation programmes for children, parents, and caregivers
- Trainers are needed for upskilling of school faculty and special educators and providing access to updated teaching toolkits and materials.
- It is required to provide technical training to local government departments; and a co-learning platform for knowledge-sharing between all.
- Five principles of equitability, usability and durability, affordability, cultural adaptability, and aesthetic appeal are of special importance. It should be embedded from the planning to implementation to evaluation stages of providing infrastructure services in schools.