Apr 10, 2016 News
Not only do local post secondary institutions fail to provide the kind of accommodations that will make
persons with disabilities comfortable, but there is no public relations programme to inform such persons of the possibilities of admission.
This state of affairs was recently amplified by Director of the Council of Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Mr. Sydney Walters.
Walters vocalised his stance, “It is imperative that post secondary institutions must take the initiative to reverse this undesirable trend.”
According to him, the Ministry of Education together with the Council for TVET must therefore ensure that an inclusive education system, at all levels for all citizens, is realized.
This collaboration, according to him, must also ensure that persons with disabilities have access to Technical and Vocational Education and Training complete with reasonable accommodation for the individuals with disabilities.
Walters has moreover stressed the importance of ensuring that persons with disabilities receive the support required to facilitate their effective education and training and that they work with all the TVET institutions to develop a transition programming committee, to assist students in their transition to employment or further education.
Support for persons with disabilities is, however, not mainly a recommendation but rather a mandate. This is in light of the fact, Walters pointed out, that the TVET Policy directs that “TVET providers must ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others. To this end, TVET providers must ensure that reasonable
accommodation is provided for persons with disabilities.”
Walter said that an existing National Strategic Plan instructs policy makers to develop policy regarding the enrolment of female and disadvantaged groups in TVET programmes; and enrol women as well as disadvantaged and special needs groups in TVET programmes.
He said that the law, the national policy on TVET, and the National Strategic Plan empower training providers to train persons who are differently able.
The Planning Department of the Ministry of Education has been tasked with collecting statistical information on the number of persons with disabilities who are trained each year at each of the post-secondary institutions so that it is published in their annual Statistical Digest.
But it was to emphasise the importance of catering to the needs of persons who are differently able that the TVET Council recently convened an integrated training workshop aimed at providing information on the impact of the legal framework on the rights of persons with disabilities.
The workshop, which was held at the Kingston, Georgetown, National Centre for Educational Resource Development, was also intended to provide educators with the methods and skills necessary to effectively undertake their teaching task.
The workshop benefited from the expertise of Dr. Beverly Beckles, Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Persons with Disabilities in Trinidad.
According to Dr. Beckles, persons with disabilities are part of the society and therefore should not be treated as outcasts.
“They live with us, they are our family members, they are our friends, they are colleagues…,” she added. “The people with disabilities make up 15 per cent of the global population, according to the World Bank estimate.”
Differently able persons, according to her, live in the rural areas with little access to health services or assisted technology or are further excluded by physical and social barriers in society. “I am sure I am not saying anything new to anybody here…We can identify with that,” considered Dr. Beckles.
She continued by sharing that women and girls with disabilities are at particular risk of exclusion, violence and human rights abuse as they live with the double discrimination of being disabled and female.
“Again this is something we can identify with females in our society…the violence in our society is not only in Trinidad; it is all over,” said Dr. Beckles. Less than five per cent of children with disabilities have reasonable access to schools, she said.
She related that in 2006 the United Nations member state adopted the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities referred to as the CRPD. CRPD, according to her, is based on a social and human rights model of disability, an important paradigm shift from the medical model.
“The medical model tends to view disability as a problem but it belongs to the individual. The social model focuses on the elimination of social barriers which prevent persons with disabilities from enjoying their human rights on an equal basis with others by focusing on the elimination of barriers as opposed to treating persons with disabilities as problems to be fixed,” added Dr. Beckles.
She said that the social model, in essence, empowers persons with disabilities to participate in all dimensions of life as active contributing members of society.
Dr. Beckles informed the educators, administrators and others in attendance that they have a responsibility in terms of inclusion of persons with disabilities in their different programmes and services.
“A lot of times because of ignorance we exclude…” added Dr Beckles as she spoke of the importance to share and bring to the fore the information that would help to include persons with disabilities in Guyana at different levels so that they can be a contributing part of society.
A follow-up workshop to foster the integration of differently able persons will be held later in this year for the training of trainers to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to manage the classroom and workshop demands that will be experienced with integrated training.
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