Historical Development in the field of Disability

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Historical Development in the field of Disability

India was a glorious exception. Emperor Ashoka appointed special officers to care for the disabled persons. Sporadic efforts at educating individual disabled children began to be made in Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries, particularly with the advent of printing technology. That period is often referred to as a period of Renaissance in Europe. Infact, there are records to show that letters were carved on clay to educate blind children in Mesopotamia almost 3,300 years ago. The hearing impaired has used improvised gestures for a very long time. Wooden crutches and other simple appliances have also been used by the locomotor impaired since time immemorial. Education of children with Intellectual disabilities could also be said to have begun in the two decades preceding the French Revolution. Itard, a physician, wrote a book entitled ‘The Wild Boy of Aveyron’. The book was based on his experiments to teach a boy who had been brought up by a tiger and not exposed to language or other human activities. The retardation caused by lack of stimulation in early childhood is as irreversible as that caused by genetic transmission or insults to the brain.

 

The ferment of the French Revolution gave a special stimulus to the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity for everyone. Great thinkers like Thoreau had a profound influence on initiating the process of special education though not directly. During the two decades preceding the French Revolution Father D’ I. Epee developed a manual alphabet for the deaf. At the same time, embossed Roman characters were used to enable the blind development to read. It was almost 50 years later that Louis Braille discovered it. In 1829, he invented the Braille system, which is based upon the permutations and combinations of six dots arranged in two parallel rows of three dots. Braille is neither a language nor a script.

As per Persons with Disability Act, 1995 and National Trust Act, 1999 the different types of disabilities are:

1.      Autism Spectrum Disorder

2.      Cerebral Palsy

3.      Hearing Handicapped

4.      Leprosy Cured

5.      Low Vision

6.      Mental Illness

7.      Mental Retardation

8.      Multiple Disability

9.      Visual Impairment

1. History of Rehabilitation and Special Educational Services for the Children with Mental retardation - Historical Perspective

 

Identification of persons with mental retardation and affording them care and management for their disabilities is not a new concept in India. The concept had been translated into practice over several centuries as a community participative culture.

 

The status of disability in India, particularly in the provision of education and employment for persons with mental retardation, as a matter of need and above all, as a matter of right, has had its recognition only in recent times, almost after the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act (PWD), 1995.

 

1.1 Pre-Colonial India

Historically, over different periods of time and almost till the advent of the colonial rule in India, including the reigns of Muslim kings, the rulers exemplified as protectors, establishing charity homes to feed, clothe and care for the destitute persons with disabilities. The community with its governance through local elected bodies, the Panchayati system of those times, collected sufficient data on persons with disabilities for provision of services, though based on the philosophy of charity. With the establishment of the colonial rule in India, changes became noticeable on the type of care and management received by the persons with the influence from the West.

 

1.2 Pre-Independence–Changing Life Styles in India

Changes in attitudes towards persons with disabilities also came to about with city life. The administrative authorities began showing interest in providing a formal education system for persons with disabilities, particularly for families which had taken up residences in the cities. Changes in the lifestyle of the persons with mental retardation were also noticed with their shifting from ‘community inclusive settings’ in which families rendered services to that of services provided in ‘asylums’, run by governmental or non-governmental agencies (Chennai, then Madras, Lunatic Asylum, 1841).

 

It was at the Madras Lunatic Asylum, renamed the Institute of Mental Health, that persons with mental illness and those with mental retardation were segregated and given appropriate treatment.

 

Special schools were started for those who could not meet the demands of the mainstream schools (Kurseong, 1918; Travancore, 1931; Chennai, 1938). The first residential home for persons with mental retardation was established in Mumbai, then Bombay (Children Aid Society, Mankhurd, 1941) followed by the establishment of a special school in 1944. Subsequently, 11 more centres were established in other parts of India.

 

1.3 Census data (2011)

Data provided by the Census, 2011 is as follows:  

 

Table 1: Percentage of Disabled to total population India

 

Percentage of Disabled to total population India, 2011

Residence

Persons

Males

Females

Rural

2.24

2.43

2.03

Urban

2.17

2.34

1.98

Total

2.21

2.41

2.01

 

 

 

Table 2: Disabled Population by Type of Disability India

 

India

Type of Disability

Persons

Males

Females

Total

26,810,557

14,986,202

11,824,355

In Seeing

5,032,463

2,638,516

2,393,947

In Hearing

5,071,007

2,677,544

2,393,463

In Speech

1,998,535

1,122,896

875,639

In Movement

5,436,604

3,370,374

2,066,230

Mental Retardation

1,505,624

870,708

634,916

Mental Illness

722,826

415,732

307,094

Any Other

4,927,011

2,727,828

2,199,183

Multiple Disability

2,116,487

1,162,604

953,883

 

Table 3: Proportion of Disabled Population by Type of Disability in India

 

Proportion of Disabled Population by Type of Disability in India : 2011

Type of Disability

Persons

Males

Females

In Seeing

18.8

17.6

20.2

In Hearing

18.9

17.9

20.2

In Speech

7.5

7.5

7.4

In Movement

20.3

22.5

17.5

Mental Retardation

5.6

5.8

5.4

Mental Illness

2.7

2.8

2.6

Any Other

18.4

18.2

18.6

Multiple Disability

7.9

7.8

8.1

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

 

Table 4: Disability by Social Groups India

 

Proportion of Disabled Population by Social Groups India, 2011

Social Group

Persons

Males

Females

Scheduled Castes

2.45

2.68

2.20

Scheduled Tribes

2.05

2.18

1.92

Other than SC/ST

2.18

2.37

1.98

Total

2.21

2.41

2.01

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