How to make Children with disabilities to study in regular schools

Neelam Jolly was a post-graduate student in biophysics. She changed her career path and became a therapist. This allowed her to see the problems and needs of children with disabilities close up. She began to envision a special needs organization where children with disabilities are included in the mainstream of society.

Neelam made a huge leap of faith in 2005 and established VISHWAS at a small house in Saanp Ki Nangli, Haryana’s Gurugram district. They quickly transformed an abandoned and vandalized building into a school and resource center for children from migrant communities. 17% of students were children with disabilities.

Neelam shares her inspirational journey, her school, and her life outside of the organization.

Neelam Jolli: It all began with an advertisement in a newspaper in 1988 from Action for Ability Development and Inclusion, then the Spastic Society of India. They were planning to launch a one-year course on Basic Development Therapy. I was seeking a change from biophysics to something more manageable, and just as satisfying.

Interview was held and I was asked to spend one week with disabled children. It was my first experience with disability. For the first two or three days I was upset seeing the children with severe disabilities who couldn’t eat, swallow, or sit properly. However, I noticed that they were playing and exchanging cricket notes in their sign language. After completing my one-year course, I was able to work there for several years. This gave me the confidence to venture out on my own.

I made the decision to start my own organization that would reach out to the remotest communities and be inclusive. VISHWAS was born. There were no resources, no team and no fixed premises. All that was needed was an idea and a dream. VISHWAS reached over 2,500 children with disabilities and others through its programmes, and many more without disabilities.

Children with disabilities are not considered holistically in many schools, colleges, and professional educational institutions. Children with and without disabilities should be enrolled in school together from the beginning. This gives them the confidence to experience the real world and to feel it.

Inclusion education is difficult because of negative attitudes from parents, teachers and communities, low enrolment rates and high dropout rates for children with disabilities, a shortage of qualified teachers, inaccessible infrastructure and a lack of political will to implement policies. Our experience at VISHWAS Vidyalaya shows that inclusion is possible despite these obstacles.

There is a wide gap between the intent and practice of persons with disabilities when it comes to employment. Why is it that corporations and governments don’t have the ability to fill the reserved 4% of jobs for people with disabilities? We are committed to making workplaces more inclusive and enabling by giving them the respect they deserve and making the necessary accommodations.

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