In this article, we explain who the people with special needs are and why they need special attention. The expression ‘special needs’ does not only relate to physical disability, but it comprises many different aspects that may be related to developmental delays, psychiatric conditions, medical issues and congenital conditions. We shall also discuss the relevant laws enacted for children with special needs and their overall growth and development.
- Differently-Abled Children
- Children Who Need Special Education
- Existing Laws and Related Issues
- Case Laws
- United Nations Report on Persons With Disabilities
- Initiatives at the International Level
- Legislative Provisions Around the Globe
- Suggestions To Make World a Better Place for People With Special Needs
Differently-abled children have special needs and they require special attention. Hence their education must be individually planned, and systematically delivered teaching techniques should be adopted.
A landmark special education law was enacted in India named the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. It aims to provide equal opportunities to disabled persons.
There are special schools in India for children with special needs. These schools provide valuable educational services to the children. Children here feel safe and get a healthy learning environment where they can learn and grow individually.
Children Who Need Special Education
As we have mentioned above, a child with special needs is not only the one who is differently-abled but also an autistic child who needs special attention and education.
Although the causes of autism were recognized in India in 1959, we still have very limited awareness about it.
The number of autistic children has increased drastically around the globe. They need not only special care and love but also need special education. Hence, people who are developmentally disabled or autistic need special education.
Existing Laws and Related Issues
The Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act, 1995
The mentioned Act came into enforcement on 7th February 1996. This was a significant step that ensured equal opportunities for disabled persons. It deals with both the preventive and promotional aspects of rehabilitation about education, employment, training, awareness programs, etc.
Rights of Persons With Disability Act, 2016
This Act came into force on 19th April 2017 and has replaced the PWD Act of 1995. It fulfils the mandate of the Convention to which India is a signatory, i.e. the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Act defines the term ‘disability’ based on an evolving concept.
The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999
According to the Act, the central government is duty-bound and obliged to set up (and it has set up) the National Trust at New Delhi to benefit the disabled and special needs citizens.
The Constitution of India
We have many provisions under the Indian Constitution that deal with the rights of disabled persons. Here are some of the provisions:
- It protects the rights of citizens, including disabled persons, and states that they have a right to justice, liberty, faith, opportunity to work and get an education.
- Article 15(1) and (2) specify that there shall be no discrimination against any Indian citizen based on caste, religion, place of birth, etc. It includes persons with special needs.
- Article 21 provides the right to life and personal liberty, including disabled persons.
- Article 23 prohibits forced labour.
- Article 29(2) provides that no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the state or receiving aid out of state funds on the ground of race, religion, caste, etc.
- Article 45 directs the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children until 14 years of age.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
The Act ensures that all children between 6 to 14 years of age get free and compulsory education. It also entitles students with disabilities to have access to free textbooks, study materials, and specific learning, etc.
The Mental Health Act, 1987
The mentioned Act contains many provisions for differently-abled persons ensuring that they get equal respect in society.
The Succession Acts
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, applicable to Hindus, provides that no person shall be debarred to inherit ancestral property due to a physical disability.
The Indian Succession Act, 1925, applicable in cases of intestate and testamentary succession, does not deprive a person with a disability from inheriting ancestral property.
The Labour Laws in India especially provide that there shall be no discrimination between labours or workers on the ground of disability.
Time and again, petitions have been filed before the courts to ensure the implementation of the rights of people with special needs. Some of the important ones are:
U.P. Vishesh Shikshak Association vs State of U.P. (2010)
A petition was filed mentioning that the pupil-teacher ratio was inadequate about specialised teachers and children. The petitioner claimed that the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992, imposed a statutory duty on the state to make arrangements for an adequate number of teachers for persons with disabilities. The High Court held that the state is bound to “provide all necessary help and assistance to physically disabled students.”
Rajneesh Kumar Pandey vs Union of India (2016)
Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed before the Supreme Court concerning the shortage of special education teachers in Uttar Pradesh.
Rajive Raturi vs Union of India (2018)
A petition was filed for visually impaired persons concerning that they should have safe access to roads and transport as well as to buildings, public places, etc.
United Nations Report on Persons With Disabilities
The following points will help you to understand the present status of the population that is living with disability around the globe:
- Around 15% of the world’s population lives with disabilities. They are the world’s largest minority.
- In countries having life expectancy over 70 years, individuals spend about 8 years or 11.5% of their life with disabilities
- 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, according to the UN Development Programme.
Data on Education
- According to UNESCO, 90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school, says UNESCO.
- According to UNDP 1998 study, the global literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%, and it is lower in the case of women with disabilities, i.e. 1%.
Initiatives at the International Level
Several initiatives have been taken at the international level to ensure that the requirements of people with special needs are met. Some of them are:
- Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, provides the right to education;
- Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, 1952, proclaims that no person shall be denied the right to education;
- According to UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, the member parties undertake to formulate and apply a national policy for promoting equality of opportunity and of treatment about making primary education free and compulsory.
Legislative Provisions Around the Globe
The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Child provides that children with disabilities have the “right to achieve participation in the community and their education should lead to the fullest possible social integration and emotional development.”
The World Conference on Education for All, 1990, states that the learning needs of the disabled demand special attention. 1981 was significant, being the International Year for Disabled Persons (IYDP).
Suggestions to Make World a Better Place for People With Special Needs
Although there are many legislative provisions for disabled persons, implementation of those provisions is missing. Importantly, the children between the ages group 3 to 6 years have been ignored. Also, proper measures should be taken to ensure that the laws are being implemented without fail.
Education concession should be given to kids with disabled parents. Parents of differently-abled children should be permitted to work from home so that they can take care of their children. It is the time to think differently for the children with special needs.
In India, we cannot deny the fact that there is a lack of infrastructure for proper schooling. Hence, the country faces a challenge to provide education for children with special abilities. However, with time, India is getting globalised and entering into many business ventures that ensure better infrastructure for the country.