Teachers’ Day is a special day for the appreciation of teachers, and may include celebrations to honor them for their special contributions in a particular field area, or the community in general. A teacher often has many roles to play in a students life. They ignite the spark to follow their passion, teaches them the difference between right and wrong and if needed help them to overcome all the challenges like a true friend. September 5th is celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India to mark the birth anniversary of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a teacher, an Indian philosopher, academic, and statesman, who served as the first Vice President and Second President of independent India. In early 1970s, it was considered that “a family with a child who has a disability is a family with disability”, because having a differently abled child in the household affects the family members’ quality of life, financial resources, the employment status. But now disabled persons have become from tax consumers to tax payers, from beneficiaries to benefactors, given the opportunity for self-development and provided with equal opportunities for education, vocational training and employment. Economic independence is the most important single factor that can lead to equalization of opportunity and meaningful existence with self-respect and dignity. Every person on earth deserves equal respect. Education and vocational training facilities for the disabled in most developing countries have now changed. Science and modern technology have made tremendous leaps in the latter half of the 20th century opening up new avenues and new horizons for the disabled and hence gone are the days when they were being trained in traditional crafts and for simple repetitive jobs like basketry, chair-caning, handloom weaving, packing assembly, light engineering etc. Disability is the complex notion that involves limited opportunities and special needs of people but it does not mean the inferiority of individuals compared to those, who do not have disability. Disabled teachers bring a unique perspective to the classroom. They had learned to give to the community and to share responsibilities with other members of the community and have attained or achieved equalization of opportunities. They are now no longer regarded as a helpless but is now treated as a much respected member of the community as of a teacher without any disability. They can achieve great success if they are given enough opportunity. A man who is blind may develop a talent for music. Beethoven, who was deaf, became a world-famous musician. Helen Keller who was blind, deaf and dumb but discovered a new horizon for the blind the Braillee. They may find it difficult to do many simple, day-to-day tasks. Nevertheless, one of the best things is to find joy by strengthening relationships in all aspects of your life – reaching out to others and making an effort to take care of yourself. Volunteering or doing activities that interest you, even if you are disabled is also a good way to keep yourself engaged. Always treat yourself with respect and self-love. While people might not always treat you the way you deserve to be treated, always be kind and understanding towards yourself, because you’re truly half of life’s happiness. People often mistake handicapped as inefficient and weaklings but the truth is that they are just some special people.They are storehouses of talent and they can achieve and are achieving their goals. They are capable of doing all the tasks we do; it is just that they have their own way of doing it. It is important to understand that disabled persons are like others with their own dreams and aspirations that they seek to pursue. Surely, they have a right to lead a life of dignity. Most of them are exceptionally sensitive about their disability and feel disheartened and disappointed if they are not treated well.
Specially-abled teachers provide not just an alternative perspective but their lived experiences are a valuable wealth of information to inform teaching practice, and clearly students benefit significantly from having access to these mentors. Teachers with disabilities foster inclusion and help to challenge the dominant culture in schools. When a teacher with some disabilities is is teaching a class of students with learning disabilities, an extraordinary opportunity for study exists which proves healthy for all the students. The entry of teachers with disabilities into the teaching profession can represent a decisive step towards the development of increasingly higher levels of inclusion both in teacher training and in the school setting, also considering the benefits that teacher with disabilities can bring in terms of inclusive values and practices. Teachers with disabilities, in fact, often bring additional expertise to the profession. They understand all too well what students with disabilities and students who struggle in school socially and with their studies are going through. They are powerful role models, and can offer counsel and assistance through a personal lens. And these educators can offer other talents such as being particularly adept with technology, having used various programs or devices for years, and are able to more easily incorporate tech into their teaching. Disabled people in many developing countries are now taking the lead in promoting the setting up of much needed services and bringing about a change in attitudes towards disability. However, significant changes in attitudes and true equalization of opportunities will occur only when disabled people fully accept their responsibilities to contribute to the betterment of the community and society. “Educators with disabilities often bring additional expertise to the teaching profession. They understand all too well what students with disabilities and students who struggle in school are going through.” It is necessary to improve the conditions of these teachers. Only then they will continue their job with full vigour and zeal. Only then they will discharge their duty towards the students as well as the nation in true sense of the term. Only then their potentialities will shine in the new generation, the real hope of the nation.
(The author is former Incharge Abhedananda Home-Higher Secondary Institution for Inclusive Education, Srinagar. Views are his own)