By Prashant Agarwal
Schools and Colleges are no longer represented by their tall buildings and long porches. Classrooms have become inaccessible to almost everyone, owing to the COVID 19 pandemic that had spread like wildfire across the world. ‘Physically’, online is the new normal and this is helping the differently abled section of the populace who were struggling for greater ‘accessibility’ to education, in the traditional setup. No classrooms, no bullying and no physical comparison between the abled and the specially abled. It is now just a teacher-student connection that is more dependent upon the individual’s holistic aptitude, rather than their physical attributes.
A routine day at school has nonetheless been challenging for those specially abled students, as despite an increase in awareness for access friendly infrastructure, a lot remains to be achieved on ground. The public transport to the school, the walk to the class and even locating the accessible utilities, everything adds to their challenge of competing with the physically ‘normal’ co-students. However, as COVID 19 changes the education scenario and everyone adapts to get accustomed to a ‘new normal’ of digital education, the differently abled students are little relieved of the physical differences and have levelled up with the rest of the lot. This adds to their confidence.
To put things in perspective, it has been these physical challenges and a lack of viable infrastructure that has been dragging behind the literacy rates of the differently-abled population. As per a 2011 Census data, between the age of 5 and 19 years, 57% male differently-abled children are attending schools, compared to their female differently-abled counterparts. Out of the 57% differently-abled, only 9% of male children graduated, even though 38% of children stayed adequately educated.
Around 55% of female differently-abled individuals are uneducated. Only 9% of the differently-abled females have metric/ secondary education so far and are not graduates. Only about 7.7% of the female disabled are graduates.
This impact of challenges in commutation is more visible in areas with undulated and difficult terrain. For example, in India, the mountain terrain in the State of Arunachal Pradesh and the largest state in size, Rajasthan records the lowest percentage of education level, amongst the differently abled population. Arunachal Pradesh recorded the lowest literacy rate of 38.75%, as per the 2011 census, a little behind Rajasthan, at 40.16%.
Certain segments of differently abled who are unable to hear, watch, walk and understand, can have better facilities at home through online and digital education. Such a platform can be immensely beneficial for enhancing their skill sets and give them an edge to step up in society and contribute to their own wellbeing and livelihoods.
The Internet has generated critical discussion and influence on marketing approaches worldwide. After Covid-19 pandemic, most of the businesses will shift to the digital way, and even small shop owners have started using the virtual marketplace with the presence of digital and social media tools. Students with physical disabilities may see completing digital marketing courses post 10+2 for lucrative career opportunities.
A Cisco report estimated that smartphone users are expected to touch 829 million by 2022. The refurbished smartphone market, which is currently unorganized and operated by locals, is also expanding in leaps and bounds. There are NGOs like Narayan Seva Sansthan, who are providing vocational courses to the differently abled in domains such as mobile repairing, tailoring training and computer training in their smart villages.
This course deeply dives into the saving techniques, time and value of money, auto loans, mortgage loans, budget, taxation and retirement planning. Its goal is to make people handle their taxes, investments, credit, insurance and retirement. This is why most colleges and training centers use their curriculum through a series of short videos, engaging and animated videos, so that even total beginners can understand and manage their finances efficiently.
In the tech world, acquiring additional knowledge about computers and systems and other allied and applicable technologies are only an added benefit for people. Such IT skills enhance people’s career prospects and open up their horizons to newer and better job roles and opportunities.
These courses give insight into the industry like how to work in the hospitality sector including hotels and restaurants operating systems etc. Students get training to serve guests, how to treat them during their travels, stay, treating guests cordially, including various other tasks such as housekeeping, preparing rooms for guests, welcoming them, cooking various types of cuisines and baking etc.
(Views are personal.)
(The author, Prashant Agarwal is the president of Narayan Seva Sansthan, a non-profit organization serving differently able and underprivileged individuals.)