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Providing Access to Special Education

Most parents of Children with Disabilities did not believe that their children should go to school because either the thought of other people’s taunts, or tangible and attitudinal obstacles would stand in the way.Overcoming this prejudice has been one of the behind-the-scenes tasks in building the Special Education programme.

While working with PWDs, RDT realised that children with various forms of disabilities were ignored by their families and the society. Over the years, RDT has been involved in providing educational opportunities for children with visual impairments (VI), speech and hearing impairments and loco-motor-impairments, children with intellectual disabilities (ID) and Cerebral Palsy (CP). Assistance is provided to improve their daily living skills in order to make them self-sufficient enough to be managed by special care and rehabilitation. As an extension to the programme, RDT collaborated with government schools for further outreach, besides also providing access to higher education, technical and vocational training of PWDs through the CBR sector’s own network of special centres. All these centres were run by staff who had been trained for working with PWDs. In 1997, RDT associated itself with a Government School in Hindupur which was meant for children with visual impairment.

RDT’s work with children started in 1994 when it set up a centre for children with intellectual disabilities at Kalyandurg. Later, two more centres were set up at Uravakonda in 1997 and Udegolam in Rayadurg area in 1999.

“There was very little scope for Children with Disabilities to access education. Now there are 17 residential school covering 1239 Children with Disabilities.”
Mr.Chinnappa
Asst., Director

In 1996, the organisation also set up a pre-school for these children at Kuderu and appointed staff trained in Braille script. Another (6th) centre was established in Kalyandurg in 1998. In the same year, RDT started a special school for children with speech and hearing impairment in Uravakonda.

As of today, RDT has established 17 residential centres for youth and children with impairment. The centres are divided into different levels specialising in the students according to the kind of disability. These centres also facilitate passage of the children to schools, colleges and public universities at a later stage.

In all its interactions with villagers, Community Development Committee (CDC) members, women, RDT drives the enrolment of Children with Disabilities into schools- its own, or government schools if possible. There are government scholarships that can be availed with help from the Sanghams, the intent being that if every child with a manageable level of impairment can access education, then they are getting off to the best start possible for them to lead a productive life. RDT runs 2 types of education centres namely Primary and Secondary.

Primary Centres cater to children aged 4 to 14 and are subdivided into:

Centre for Children with Total or Partial Visual Impairment:

Specially appointed staff train students in Braille at the centre. In fact, nearly all visually-impaired children attend school which has been enabled largely by RDT’s braille-printing facility that started in the year 2000. All classroom textbooks across all subjects today are available in Braille for the students with special visual needs.. All academic books from Class I to X (including math) are rendered in Braille with Telugu books being converted using a special software allowing Telugu-speaking children access to Braille books that they can read.

Since 1990, RDT has been devising a unique Telugu Sign Language (TSL) with the help of experts. Extensive field studies were carried out in 23 districts in Andhra Pradesh, where all the various signs used by PWDs were collated, studied and standardised into a common Sign Language using the most  prevalent signs which is taught to teachers and children. Instruction books in Telugu Sign Language for Class I and II are presently under use, with books till Class V currently under development. Having TSL instruction has ensured near-total enrolment in Primary and Secondary school by children with speech and hearing impairments.

Centre for Children with Speech and Hearing Impairment

Children work with speech therapists and professionals specialising in sign language. This programme also offers extracurricular activities for boosting self-esteem of these children. Secondary level centres operate in the following 2 specialisations.

High School for Inclusive Education

This school was set up in Raptadu in 2008 and caters to children with partial or total visual impairments, orphans, whose parents succumbed to AIDS and children with loco-motor-disabilities. The school offers education from sixth to tenth grade and also conducts computer classes. RDT enables their education with scholarships as needed, teaching/learning aids and special learning materials in Braille.

High School for Speech and Hearing Impaired Children

Meant for children aged 12 to 17, thiscentre offers education from sixth to tenth grade, after which RDT provides scholarships for students who wish to pursue higher education in colleges or universities.

Both centres have divisions for extracurricular activities and sports to promote physical, mental, emotional and social development of young people and offer specialised training for athletes.

Other than the activities implemented directly for children, RDT also conducts awareness programmes for families and teachers in both public schools and residential centres.

All teachers working in schools for People with Disabilities are specialised professionals and RDT offers additional trainings on specific topics such as sign language or speech therapy. The eventual goal of all these centres is to integrate children with disability with abled children in schools and society.

HIGHLIGHTS
 
STAFF SPEAK
 

It is imperative to set up specialised learning facilities for children with disabilities. These children are not in a position to cope with the learning pace of other children and so, RDT rendered Braille for Telegu, Hindi and English to teach the rural children. We have also printed books in Braille for the convenience of students. This is a commendable job!

Mrs. Vanaja
Braille Operator

SUCCESS STORY
 

As a child, I met with a severe accident in which I lost my eyes. Being visually impaired made me feel very hapless and dependent on people. I felt like there was no goal or purpose for me in life.

One day, my father – Eswaraiah – heard about RDT’s training centre for the visually impaired and got me enrolled there. I was the first student of RDT’s Braille school and it was a turning point in my life as I was introduced to the new world of learning through Braille. I realised that while I had lost my vision, my other senses could help compensate my disability to some extent.

The trainers there accepted my disability and gave undivided attention to me. Soon, there were many other students like me at the centre, and I ended up making some good friends. I focused on developing my skills and educated myself through Braille. With the help of my trainers, I completed primary education which further laid out the path to study B. Ed and then M.A. English.

RDT schools also promoted extra-curricular activities and it was there that I discovered my talent for singing. In 2009, I was one of the 18 participants at the singing reality show ‘Black’ on ETV. The show was judged by acclaimed actress Laya and renowned artist B.V. Mohankrishna, who himself is visually-challenged. This was the highest point in my life.

“Today, I myself am working as a Braille teacher with RDT, enabling many other visually impaired students to access quality education.”

Obaiah,
Braille Teacher, Inclusive School, RDT, Rapthadu

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

Seeing People with Disabilities out passing others in every field, parents are no more ashamed of their Children with Disabilities. Rather, now they feel proud of their achievements and make them a part of every social gathering.

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