Unanimous Voice of Delegates at International Conference on Inclusive Education
~ Prime Minister asked to shift the education of children with special needs from the Ministry of Social Justice to the Ministry of HRD ~
~ Govt. neglecting people with disability is violation of the laws of the land and hence illegal ~
~ People with disabilities do not need welfare, they need education ~
Chennai – 23rd Feb, 2012: India’s only international conference on inclusive education, the ‘North South Dialogue IV – Implementing Tools of Change For Inclusion’ organized by Mumbai based ADAPT – Able Disable All People Together (formerly the Spastics Society of India) and held in Goa for the last five days, got an intellectual farewell today. After five days of deliberations some strong words of displeasure were expressed about the treatment of people with disability and some solutions laid out.
“This gathering of hundreds of professionals, parents, disability activists and allies have come out with a few recommendations for the government. We unanimously ask the Prime Minister to ensure that the education of children with special needs must be shifted from the Ministry of Social Justice to the Ministry of Human Resource Development as people with disability do not need welfare and rehabilitation. They need education,” said Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder-Chairperson, ADAPT.
She added, “All pedagogy and training in the medical schools in universities should adopt universal design so that architectural barriers are removed and facilities made accessible. There was an unanimous agreement that India has a lot of rhetoric and theory that stays on paper while on the ground India is committing apartheid on grounds of disability with the case of Jeeja Ghosh being an example.” The case of Jeeja Ghosh, a young teacher with cerebral palsy from Kolkata became a media sensation after she was asked to disembark from a SpiceJet flight by an insensitive pilot on the 19th of February as she was coming to the Goa conference. Traumatized by the humiliation, she had to give the conference a miss and her decade of expertise of working in the field of disability was missed by the conference.
International delegates from 18 countries took turns to congratulate ADAPT for completing 40 years of service in the country. However, Dr. Alur stressed on the need to do more. “It is time the government got their act together. We have told them what to do for the last forty years. Are they really serious in their intent to do something about people with disability who constitute over 10 % of the population? If not, they are violating their own laws.”
Mayoress Jennifer Evans from London, who has worked for over 40 years on inclusive education said, “The driving force of the conference was love and doing good things for people. It has motivated, inspired and helped people who have gathered here to share and learn from each other. The fight for inclusion has to take place at all levels: grassroots to political. Changes in legislation is important but unless people can enforce their rights it remains mere words on paper.”
She went on to salute the power of resistance when she said, “So much can be achieved by people who do not take no for an answer.”
With a wide spread participation of professionals the conference became a five day concentrated confluence of all people working in the disability sector in India. This is expected to have a systemically positive influence on not just the 10% Indians who are disabled but also their families and friends. Delegates from 22 countries, including the evolved western ones like UK, USA, Canada and Australia shared ideas with those from the developing world like Vietnam, China, Tibet and Cambodia where the disabled are facing unimaginable oppression. 22% of people presenting papers in the conference were disabled themselves thus becoming living proof of disability evolving from a charity model to a right based and economic one in India.