REHABILITATION OF THE DISABLED WOMEN: NEED OF A HOLISTIC APPROACH

 

Santoshi Halder

INTRODUCTION

More than 500 million people in the world are disabled as a consequence of mental, physical or sensory impairment. 97% of disabled children in developing countries are without any form of rehabilitation and 98% without any education. India, often described as an emerging superpower has a population of one billion, yet it is estimated that approximately seventy million are characterized as disabled (NSSO 1991). This projected nearly 10% of Indians with some disabling conditions. The 2001 Census figures show the motor disability counts the second highest percentage of disability (27.9%), but it is perhaps the most neglected. Approximately 6 % of persons with disabilities belong to the age group 0-14 years in rural areas and 5.4 % to urban areas (Census 2001; NSSO-2002). The purpose of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons is to promote effective measures for prevention of disability, rehabilitation and the realization of the goals of “full participation” of disabled persons in social life and development, and of “equality”. Equalization of opportunities means the process through which the general system of society, such as the physical and cultural environment, housing and transportation, social and health services, educational and work opportunities, cultural and social life, including sports and recreational facilities, are made accessible to all (United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, 1983-1992). Rehabilitation means a goal-oriented and time-limited process aimed at enabling an impaired person to reach an optimum mental, physical or social functional level, thus providing her or him with the tools to change her or his own life. Rehabilitation usually includes the following types of services:(a)Early detection, diagnosis and intervention;(b)Medical care and treatment (c) Social, psychological and other types of counseling and assistance (d) Training in self-care activities, including mobility, communication and daily living skills, with special provisions as needed (e) Provision of technical and mobility aids and other devices (f) Specialized education services;(g) Vocational rehabilitation services (including vocational guidance), vocational training, placement in open or sheltered employment ;(h) Follow-up.

 

WOMEN AND DISABILITY

In India the ugliest expressions of gender discrimination are found in the field of disability, frequently cutting across social, economic, political and cultural dimensions. Thus, the meaning of disability in India is embedded in this basic struggle for survival. Statistically speaking the birth of a girl child in India is still treated as a curse from God, fate worst than death which is a reason for gender discrimination in the society (Ghai 2001). As a mother lamented, “What will happen to our challenged daughter in our absence?” Feeling of insecurity regarding future of challenged daughter haunts their mind. Children with locomotor disabilities are enrolled in large numbers in mainstream than other children with disabilities. In West Bengal amongst different categories of disabilities, persons with locomotor disabilities are the highest in number. The principle of equal rights for the disabled and non- disabled implies that the needs of each and every individual are of equal importance, that these needs must be made the basis for the planning of societies, and that all resources must be employed in such a way as to ensure, for every individual, equal opportunity for participation.

 

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

To identify the various constraints faced by the orthopaedically challenged women in their way of  Rehabilitation

 

Sample

This study is a result of a pilot study for partial fulfillment of a Project work on 25 orthopaedically challenged women. Data was gathered by situational sampling technique from different West Bengal in and around Kolkata. The mean age being 25yrs.The nature of disability included all forms of orthopaedically challenged excluding the cerebral palsy due to unavailability.

 

Tools

§ Information Schedule

§ Constraints faced by the orthopaedically challenged- Opinion of teachers, Parents, challenged women - Interview schedule

§ Socio economic background schedule

§ Academic performance - school records from teacher/institutes/challenged

§ Vocational information  from the challenged-Interview schedule

 

DATA COLLECTION AND STATISTICAL TREATMENT

At initial stage tracking these physically challenged was really a cumbersome affair taking help from various special institutes and employment exchanges spread over different parts in and around Kolkata. After collecting addresses, initial contact was made by post to nearly 250 such challenged, out of which only 50-55 responded via phone or letters. Final data was collected from 25 challenged women by personally visiting each individual and their family at their home or institutes on the basis of personal interviews, discussions with parents, teachers and the challenged women. Some of the Institutes also arranged for some interviews to be taken at the spot .Very few with minor disability also managed to come at the researcher’s home. Mainly descriptive analysis was done for the study and findings were supported by case histories of some orthopaedically challenged women.

 

FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION

Data reveals 64 % (figure 1) of the orthopaedically challenged to be polio victims and 56% of them were not given vaccination (figure 2) .With the massive polio vaccine programmes launched by the government, one expects that the number of orthopaedically challenged persons would decline substantially in the coming years. But the programme alone is not a guarantee that the orthopaedically disabled would be eliminated altogether. Main problem was financial constraints, orthodoxy, and superstition as most of them fall under the low socioeconomic status. Parents were unaware and ignorant of the medical treatments, immunizations available and some also didn’t have the knowledge of polio or its consequences. Some parents who were from rural areas in spite of going to doctors went to quacks or even applied some home remedies as advised by others which in some cases adversely affected the impaired. It was found from the study that nearly 68% of the challenged have done various vocational courses from different institutes but when it comes to job they were disappointed. Immediate attention is to be focused on the nature and type of vocations offered to the orthopaedically challenged which was not able to provide them a minimum job. It was found that most of the orthopaedically challenged were approaching the general institutes for vocational courses but were facing environmental barriers and as well as financial crises. The types of courses offered in the special institutes were outdated. There was no facility for placement or follow up or even there was no personal endeavour or services after the courses, in the absence of which just doing a particular course was of no use. From the table its visible that more than educational attainment they were more focused on doing vocational courses so that they can get a job. Data revealed that the disabled are not having the access to the quality of life like any other citizen and that in reality they are not treated as equal partners in community by the job owners, in the absence of which rehabilitation of disabled become an unsuccessful task. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is significantly higher than for people who are not disabled. Approximately 66% of all adults with disabilities between the ages of 16-64 are not employed (Harris and Associates, 1986). Young women with disabilities are unemployed at rates significantly higher than young man with disabilities or young women without disabilities. While the unemployment rate is about 5% nationally, a full 66% of all Americans with disabilities between age of 16 and 64 are not working (Harris and Associates, 1986, Bureau of the Census, 1989). The Vocational Rehabilitation Centers offering courses to the disabled were on full time basis and also they lack flexibility which was not possible for the disabled students to pursue along with their education. Parents and even their challenged ward were confused when comes to choosing of a particular vocation which will enable them to further get a job.

 

A general co-ordination deficit and  huge gap exist between the demand of  job market and the type of vocational courses done on their own by these challenged as well as those offered by the special institutes.(Satcher and Dooley-Dickey 1992) reported 66% of their disabled respondents wanted to work but were unable to obtain employment. In all the cases it was found that the main priority was to get a job so that they may earn their livelihood but only a handful few were able to get a job. In spite of the 3% reservations in government jobs huge gaps persist in the number of vacancies and the number of challenged in need of a job. There were problems regarding placement after training (Field and Tormochlen 1985).Unable to get a job the disabled becomes cases of depression, isolation .Only a handful few who were lucky enough for further studies leaving many to struggle through out with only certificate to proof their disability and with an employment exchange card renewing year after year in hope of a call from the government for a minimal job to carry on their lives on their own. Struggling hard for the basic amenities of life when they went to private firms to compete,  they are taken as  complete misfits amongst the average .It’s really surprising that though peoples attitude is very sympathetic but when it comes giving them a chance there is a stumbling block. It will surprise us if we analyze the daily labour taken by these disabled in their day today life activities in and out home in spite of their disability. But who cares! They may be confident and competent enough in their own way but no body has the time to give it a thought. Thus in spite of doing so many courses with such difficulty in the midst of financial crises they are bound to remain dependent. Some even complains that the financial institutions show extreme reluctance to providing aid to the self employment projects proposed by the disabled persons as most of them are very poor and have nothing to pledge by way of security. Barriers to employment for disabled persons can either be physical or attitudinal (Stone and Dipboye1992; Jones and Stone1995).

 

It was found from the study that nearly 80% of the challenged have done various vocational courses from different institutes but when it comes to job they were disappointing. Immediate attention is to be focused on the nature and type of vocation & rehabilitation of the orthopaedically challenged which was not able to provide them a minimum job. It was found that most of the orthopaedically challenged were opting the general institutes for education & as well as vocations. The type of courses offered there were outdated .There was no facility for placement or follow up or even there was no personal endeavour or services after the courses, so just doing a particular course was of no use. Data revealed that the disabled are not having the access to the quality of life like any other citizen & that in reality they are not treated as equal partners in community by the job owners, in the absence of which rehabilitation of disabled become an unsuccessful task. Institutes are not adequately prepared for employment, are unable to access resources that enhance their participation in community life. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is significantly higher than for people who are not disabled. Approximately 66% of all adults with disabilities between the ages of 16-64 are not employed (Harris and Associates, 1986). Young women with disabilities are unemployed at rates significantly higher than young man with disabilities or young women without disabilities (Hasazi, Johnson, Gordon & Hull with press). According to Department of Commerce, (Bureau of the Census, 1989) the employment rate of people with disabilities is very low.

 

 SUGGESTIONS

The fact is that 90% of the disabled belong to the lower income group and unawareness, ignorance, orthodoxy are further associated causes that’s where government energies need to be concentrated. Community workers can support the integration of disabled persons into open employment through a variety of measures, such as incentive-oriented quota schemes, reserved or designated employment, loans or grants for small businesses and co-operatives, exclusive contracts or priority production rights, tax concessions, or other technical or financial assistance to enterprises employing disabled workers. There should be mutual co-operation, strong collaborative efforts at the central and local level between government and employers and workers organizations, between the institutes offering vocational courses to the disabled and the firms offering job in order to develop a joint strategy and joint action with a view to ensuring more and better employment opportunities for disabled persons. The institutes should include vocational assessment and guidance, vocational training, placements and follow-up. With minor modifications and alterations in the regular courses with assistance from regular teachers is needed. Institutes need to set up disabled friendly and barrier free environment. The children need support in terms of structural arrangements and teaching methods mobility. Availability of transport facilities for children with disabilities is a must. Making education of the disabled vocation oriented is a must .The curriculum should be a perfect balance of academics and vocations which would enable them to provide them a job after completion.  The institutes need to revise the prevalent vocational courses offered to the disabled according to the existing demands and also it should be revised from time to time after interactions with the public and private sectors so that placement doesn’t become a problem and also there is no wastage. Most of the vocational courses provided are not practical for girls with disabilities. A considerable number of specialized vocational training programmes for girls with disabilities have been identified but are not available due to lack of faculties or technical support. There is a need to extend such programmes to the rural areas and create awareness about the benefits of such programmes for the disabled. There is a need for a vocational and career counselor to guide them regarding self-employment programmes, government schemes and referral services for placement officers. Continuous efforts towards empowering parents and families on the management of their disabled wards/ would assist them in becoming informed consumers of services leading to implementation of most government policies and programmes. Translating the policies and training materials in Indian languages in print and nonprinting media can make the people aware of the policies and provisions.

 

CONCLUSION

The image of disabled persons depends on social attitudes based on different factors that may be the greatest barrier to participation and equality. What is required is to focus on the ability, not on the disability of disabled persons. Studies on handicapped women in Indian context are very scanty and in view of the present government policy for education and rehabilitation of the handicapped persons particularly women, such research studies are relevant and needed. Findings of the present study will help us in planning and formulating right kind of vocational training and educational programme so that the orthopaedically challenged women can be brought in to the main stream of society.

 

REFERENCES

Das, D. and Agnihotri, S.B. (1999) Physical disability: Is there a gender dimension? Economic and Political Weekly 33, 52, 3333-35.

Department of Women and Child Development (2002) Indian Child: A Profile. Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India,