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Focus on right way to tackle disability

Mohan Agashe at the seminar. (Bhubaneswarananda Halder)

A positive attitude towards disability, the advantages of early intervention and the need to counsel the family were some of the topics discussed at a three-day public awareness programme on disability, Unseen, presented by The Welcome Trust/DBT India Alliance with Manovikas Kendra last week.

Taking part in a panel discussion on Attitudinal Barriers to Accepting Challenged Persons, Kavneet Khullar, the principal of Akshar, shared how her dream of an inclusive school came true with Akshar. “Most educational institutions feel their biggest hurdle in inclusion is the architecture barrier. They complain of the lack of ramps, handrails, lifts and other infrastructure. But a positive attitude counts the most. We also faced hurdles but it’s the way you think and move ahead,” she said.

Jane Thompson, an intervention specialist who has worked with individual families, described how parents of a child with disability need to be trained as they are often scared and helpless.

“Disability happens to a family. As soon as you see a child lag behind, jump in to counsel the family as early intervention is the best way to help. Help the family address the child’s problem. Bring professionals home,” said the wife of US consul general Dean Thompson.

Seema Sapru, the principal of The Heritage School, told the story of a wheelchair-user who contested for the post of school president and a child with Asperger’s syndrome who has got through an environment engineering course in New Zealand. “We are trying our best, but special kids need outside support too.”

“The so-called disabled people never regard disability the way we do. They concentrate more on living,” said Mohan Agashe, psychiatrist, actor and the head of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune.

At the audience interaction, Anuradha Lohia, a molecular biologist and CEO of The Welcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, stressed the importance of special educators and specialised intervention. “Just love does not work. You need a trained eye and mind to spot a child with problems.”

Several short films and documentaries, including The Boy Inside (Canada) by Marianne Kaplan, Earthlings, Who Are You Voting For? (Poland) by Linda Kalistova Jablonska and Body and Soul (UK) by Alice Elliott, curated by Dr Gregor Kern from Munich and Agashe were screened as art of the programme, was also shown.