Disability is not, and will never be, a choice. This is something one never wants to be. But let’s face it, it happens! Handicapped students have immense potential to put their share in national development in every way and become stars for their efforts. But what you should ask is the very question: Why aren’t these stars not recognised enough? Or why their presence isn’t seen and felt? Or will it be right to say that they are taken for granted i.e. they are allowed to study in a school/college/university only for the sake of reputing that institute and its name?
First of all, physically disabled students have to struggle in their educational institute. The lack of proper bathrooms with special SOPs and ramps is sad. Due to regular classes being conducted on first or second floor, where students are required to walk up the stairs, it is impossible for the disabled to step on those stairs. Besides, the wheelchair-bound pupils need help from their classmates and teachers. They are carried by their friends or teachers along with the wheelchair. This is exhaustively tiring.
Moreover, unavailability of special bathroom means that these students are supposed to either not use the toilet or ask their friends to help them sit on the toilet seat. This is shameful. Furthermore, how wonderful would it be if the Universities’ transport system had vehicles like metro buses, shuttles, or para-transits, for their ‘pick and drop’.
It is highly recommended that all the educational institutes make preparations for fitting elevators, or at least, shifting the classes to ground floor; build proper bathrooms with special SOPs and build smooth ramps for their accessibility. It is encouraging to look at the International Islamic University in Islamabad for built-in ramps; King Edward Medical University in Lahore for built-in lifts; and Karachi University in Karachi for conducting classes on ground floors.
Secondly, calling someone ‘blind’ should be considered a crime. They are just ‘visually impaired’ students who are deprived of proper books. Amongst normal students, who are capable of reading books that are typed in alphabets, these visually impaired pupils struggle to read those alphabetic books. And when a person does not read enough, he or she does not have enough vocabulary causing their language to be less proficient. This is an unfortunate case for visually impaired students. Besides, when a teacher is supposed to present a video on a big screen, their eyes begin to feel itchy and start hurting.
These arguments are supported in a research paper titled ‘Learning Opportunities and Challenges Faced by Visually Impaired Students in Special Schools of District Rawalpindi’ published in Pakistan Social Sciences Review. Therefore, it is suggested that either Braille books, books that are written using raised dots, be provided to these students or their teachers should share with them some audio lectures.
Physically disabled students have to struggle in their educational institutes. Lack of proper bathrooms with special SOPs and ramps is inconvenient.
Perhaps, they should be allowed to record lectures in electronic devices so they can listen to the recorded lessons. It is delightful to look at the Digital Resource Center of the University Management and Technology in Lahore that provides sign language interpreters, special computers with accessibility provisions like JAWS and DUX Burry, large LED projectors, Braille Frames MP3 Recorders, Video Recorders, Audio Systems and much more.
Third, as per LaunchGood, we need to mourn the fact that more than 1 million children in Pakistan are unable to hear. In fact, hardly 5% of them attend school. And when they don’t get quality education as normal children in schools such as Beaconhouse School System, The City School, Lahore Grammar School, Aitchison College etc. they don’t end up being skilled and literate enough to make a living.
An admirable quote by the American writer Mark Twain is: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” This quote says it all! But the question now is that how to be kind to the ‘hard of hearing’ students?
It is nice to learn that Family Education Services Foundation (FESF) is investing in educational development and training programs for these students under the “Deaf Reach Program”. Their services have reached Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Tando Allahyar, Nawabshah, Lahore and Jhelum.
Besides, “Pakistan Sign Language Program” is another welcome progressive step. But why must we limit ourselves till vocational centres and colleges? Why don’t we learn from Gallaudet University in Washington that was first founded as a grammar school and today it provides undergraduate and graduate programs to both hard-of-hearing and visually-impaired pupils?
Just think about how many smiles you can bring on the faces of these stars, who in the future, can brighten Pakistan across the globe. We need to establish a profound University for them as an act of generosity.
All in all, in this global village barely can someone stay behind unless the governing authorities and sympathetic people like you devout their time in the maintenance of Pakistan by assisting these students who have the potential to be stars to reach cloud nine, as you are, today. The trend and slogan for this matter should be: DON’T JUDGE A DISABILITY BY ITS VISIBILITY!