Differently Abled Require Early Digital Education
Access to internet and breakthrough technologies have empowered and geared many sections of society towards mainstream. We as a society should also mobilize this digital revolution towards new possibilities for the differently abled. Digital inclusion for Differently Abled persons needs to be taken on a priority basis in India.
Prashant Agarwal, President, Narayan Seva Sansthan with a differently-abled child.
Today, more than 2.21 percent of India’s population is suffering from disability, as per the country’s latest census. The figure of people suffering from some form disability is likely to be more than five percent as stated by the Planning Commission and the World Bank. On a macro level the number might seem momentous compared to India’s total population, but is alarming to demonstrate that significant percentage of persons with disabilities living in India.
Sensing the disadvantages faced by People with Disabilities, the Government of India and the society at large have recently made noteworthy efforts to bring the ‘Differently Abled’ into the mainstream. The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, has appealed that disabled should be called ‘Divyang’ as a respect to their individuality and potential.
In this context, access to internet and breakthrough technologies have empowered and geared many sections of society towards mainstream. We as a society should also mobilize this digital revolution towards new possibilities for the differently abled. Digital inclusion for Differently Abled persons needs to be taken on a priority basis in India. Some steps have taken in this direction in the past by enabling the use of ICT for a disabled person, providing learning aids for hearing/speech impaired, supporting on readability for visually impaired etc.
Making Ecosystem through Available Assistive Technologies (AATs):
For humans, having sensory disabilities related to vision or hearing impairment is a challenge, especially in a classroom setting where an instructor cannot rely on common classroom tools and study materials. Individuals suffering from cognitive impairment require learning in a different manner. While these challenges are real and cumbersome, digital education and technology can bridge the gap and bring a new experience of immersive training to make their day-to-day education easy. With the help of various assistive technologies, differently abled persons are steadily making their presence felt in the society very strongly. Some of the AATs such as, Text-to-speech Technology, Speech recognition Apps, Visual Aids like onscreen Text-to-Braille converter, Audio Aids, Physical Aids have reduced the challenges of differently abled learners. Due to AATs it has become possible for them to access technology.
People with physical disabilities or long-term illnesses face mobility issues to reach classrooms or other locations for education. However, some innovations are rapidly changing their life. Cutting edge wheel chairs, Robotic Suits, Prosthetic Limbs enabled with AI Technology to name a few are promising a better future for the physically disabled.
How early age Digital Education can empower to differently abled:
Technology has always helped people with disabilities. From providing aid for reading to a visually impaired person to the inclusion of deaf in group conversation, technology has proven to be a blessing. Due to digital revolution, many apps and gadgets have reduced the challenges faced on a daily basis by differently abled. There are a lot of efforts made by engineers to develop electronic based technological devices which would be available within the reach of common people. With the help of these gadgets, early age education for the differently abled will be a more accessibly aspect in the coming days making these individuals future ready and highly competitive.
Disabled children between the age groups of 6-15 years of age require a lot of digital learning exposure along with traditional education system. Since they remain excluded from mainstream education opportunities, it is also important to identify their talent while nurturing them for various skills. With the help of digital education through internet, mobile, tablets and laptops, such students may get through the practical problem solving without even coming to a classroom. These steps are possible and a practical model has been set by a NGO based in Udaipur, Narayan Seva Sansthan. It has started a smart village for differently abled. Under this initiative, they are enabling persons with disability – physically, economically and socially. One of the initiatives they are taking is to provide vocational training in mobile repairing and so far they have trained about 2500 differently abled persons under this course.
A recent Cisco Report estimates that Smartphone users are expected to double by 2022 and may reach to 829 million users. Refurbished smartphone market is currently unorganised and driven by local brick & mortar retailers, and it is rapidly making its space online. Flipkart, Amazon, InstaCash, Quikr, OLX and many such more are capturing the refurbished Smartphone market in India which is estimated to reach $12-15 billion by 2020. Following this demand, more number of trained human resources will be required by the online retail giants. Most of such skills can be learned online and can be practiced as a freelancer by setting-up own startup too.
Similarly, looking at the upcoming trends in various industries, a customized career options can be identified for the disabled. Some of such opportunities are Digital Marketing Skills, Mobile Repairing Skills, Online Finance & Accounting Skills, Web Development Skills, IOT & AI Skills, Wealth Management Skills, manufacturing skills etc. Notably, Microsoft has also developed software that a blind person can use independently. The accessibility features in Windows have helped the visually impaired humans to learn computers and this has resulted in providing progressive career in banks, government offices, railways and many such more.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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