While unemployment is projected as a significant problem in India, there are areas where employment opportunities are plenty and the field of disability services is one such area. The human rights approach to services for persons with disability has created awareness among all stakeholders of the society and as a result, new avenues in disability services are emerging. The Rehabilitation Council of India projected a need for more than 700,000 professionals and personnel to serve the population of persons with disabilities in India.
What is required to become a professional in the field of disability? A professional in the field of disability needs to be academically sound and creative. In addition to these qualities, the person should have the right aptitude to work with these persons. Go through the text below to find out the scope in the disability sector.
The Government of India has made education of children with disabilities as an integral part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Children with disabilities are identified and enrolled in general schools to study along with non-disabled children. While general teachers are oriented to the educational needs of these children too, special teachers are appointed at the block levels to work with general classroom teachers and children with disabilities to ensure quality in services. These special teachers should have skills in teaching academic subjects and also in adapting curricular instruction for children with disabilities. In Tamil Nadu alone more than 70,000 children with disabilities have been admitted into general schools and there is a great demand for special teachers to work at the block levels in every district. Unfortunately, sufficient numbers of qualified teachers are not available.
What are the qualifications of these teachers? A teacher of children with disabilities is regarded as a teacher first and teacher of children with disabilities next and therefore, all qualifications expected from the general classroom teachers are also applicable to special teachers. In addition to these qualifications, they should have specialised in teaching children with disabilities too. These courses are offered at the diploma level and also at the B.Ed. level in various institutions of the country. As per the directives of the Government, any professional course in the area of disability should be recognised by the Rehabilitation Council of India, a regulatory body created by the Government of India for ensuring standards in special education human resource development. In India, the organisations implementing the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in the case of children with disabilities are facing acute shortage of special teachers every year.
In higher education institutes too, there is acute shortage of teacher educators to teach special education courses. The University Grants Commission implements a scheme by name Teacher Preparation in Special Education (TEPSE) to encourage Universities and Colleges of Education to start teacher preparation courses at the B.Ed. and M.Ed. levels to prepare special education teachers. Many Universities and Colleges in the country are provided financial assistance from UGC to conduct these courses. For teaching such courses, teacher educators should possess a Masters degree in school subject and a Masters degree in special education with requisite marks as per the norms of the Rehabilitation Council of India. Though the posts of Lecturers for various institutions are advertised, very few qualified persons at the national level are available. Those who want to become teacher educators in the area of disability may pursue M.Ed. in special education and possess higher degrees such as M.Phil and Ph.D. in special education. Again this is an unexplored field and the scope is plenty.
Rehabilitation programmes for persons with disabilities are started in various parts of the country in order to create employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Field workers for these rehabilitation programmes are also in great demand. The organisations implementing these programmes often provide crash courses for untrained persons and deploy them to provide services. The Rehabilitation Council of India has approved certain institutes in the country to offer diploma courses in community based rehabilitation. The duration of this course is one year and the entry qualification is Plus 2 education.
Sign language interpreters are required everywhere to communicate with deaf persons. The Rehabilitation Council of India has brought out a diploma course in sign language and this course is offered in a few institutions in India. Sign language interpreters are also appointed in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme as technical staff to work in a cluster. Besides teaching, sign language interpreters have scope in hospitals, courts, media, etc., to serve as the bridge between persons with hearing impairment and the society. Speech therapy courses are also becoming popular to work with hearing impaired children to improve their speech skills.
Orientation and Mobility instructors and Adapted Physical Education teachers are needed to teach mobility and physical education to visually impaired children. Physiotherapy is also another area which has a demand in disability related services. Besides getting employment as technicians in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, these technical persons can also serve as freelance service providers and consultants for organisations and individuals.
Recently, countries from the West have also started recruiting special education teachers from India and therefore, the scope is beyond boundaries.
Physiotherpy is relatively a new field in India. India had only 10 colleges in 1984 offering physiotherapy but now the number exceeds 100. WHO norm says that for every 10000 persons, one Physiotherapist (PT) is required. India has about 5000 PTs only. We need more than 100,000 PTs in India. PTs are in big demand due to increasingly sedentary life. USA alone needs about 44000 PTs. PT professionals are among the top five wanted professionals in the US. There are needs in Canada, Australia, Europe, etc. PTs are also wanted in the SSA scheme.
Speech pathologists and audiologists in particular are in short supply in India. Why are speech and language pathologists from India popular in other countries? The first reason is that most of the Indian graduates in this discipline have good communication skills. Secondly, their exposure to a multi-cultural society is another plus point. Even within disability areas, the population is heterogeneous and the ability of Indian professionals to work with such a population strengthens their job potential. Another major advantage is due to the fact that the Indian students are multi-lingual in nature. Most of the students at the higher education level in India speak at least three languages including English and this skill in them contributes to their successful employment as speech and language pathologists in any part of the world.
Experiences of the past reveal that the graduates from India specialized in speech and language pathology are in great demand in the United States, Australia and other European countries. In India too, the awareness for speech therapy is growing. In the past, there was a taboo attached to any disability and therefore, parents were not coming forward to get services for children when they were identified to have speech disorders. With the growing awareness that speech problem is not an obstacle to successful living in the society, speech correction, use of hearing aids, using sign language, etc., are on demand by hearing impaired persons and their parents as well.
The speech-language pathology is relatively a new field in India. At present only about 20 universities and colleges are offering courses leading to degrees in this discipline and new institutions are emerging. The four-year Bachelors course on Audiology, Speech and Language Pathology recognized by the Rehabilitation Council of India is becoming popular among educational institutions. Many medical colleges in the country are starting this course since they can use their resources such as the ENT Departments, speech therapists, audiologists, and doctors as well to enrich the course.
A person trained in both audiology and speech-language pathology is rare at the moment and there is a demand for such professionals. Majority of the hospitals are also looking into the rehabilitation aspects besides attending to the preventive and curative aspects and therefore, these professionals are in demand in hospitals. Community rehabilitation programmes and schools are also recruiting qualified audiologists and speech pathologists. In many places, speech-language pathologists, besides working in educational institutions as teachers or teacher educators, also run clinics. Therefore, speech and language pathologists can carve their own career just like medical practitioners.
Young students, particularly of higher secondary classes, should be aware of these job-oriented professions in India and abroad.