[AI] Fillip to disability studies

harish harish at accessindia.org.in
Wed May 26 11:32:13 EDT 2010

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Date:25/05/2010 URL:
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Fillip to disability studies

A committee set up by the State government has recommended the
creation of two centres of excellence in disability studies in the
State. G. MAHADEVAN describes the courses that are likely to be
offered by these centres from 2011.

New initiative: The proposed programmes will be designed to equip the
learner to change the mindset of society towards disability.

Come 2011 and postgraduate programmes in disability studies could well
be part of the bouquet of courses on offer in the higher education
sector in Kerala.

The final draft report [prepared last week] of a committee set by the
State government has recommended the creation of two centres of
excellence in disability studies - an inter-university centre attached
to the Mahatma Gandhi University offering postgraduate, M.Phil. and
doctoral programmes, and the second attached to the LBS, offering
postgraduate diploma programmes. The committee headed by noted
historian Dr. K. N. Panikkar is expected to submit its report to the
government shortly.

Mr. Panikkar told the The Hindu-EducationPlus that the
inter-university centre could be set up in a couple of months.
"Realistically we can expect the first of the courses to be offered in
2011," he said.

The postgraduate programmes would be interdisciplinary in nature.
Those opting for disability studies after graduating from the science
stream would receive an M.Sc. degree. On the other hand those coming
from the social sciences or humanities branches would be given an MA
degree. "This is a first of its kind course, a programme where the MA
and the M.Sc. programme are offered in an integrated manner,"
committee member and member of the National Human Rights Commission
Core Group on disability, Dr. G. N. Karna told The

Though there are a couple of institutions that offer courses in
disability studies, they tend to approach the subject from the angle
of special education. "None of them get to the core of disability
studies. In that respect the Kerala programmes will be unique," he
explained. The second centre of excellence would concentrate on
postgraduate diplomas in disability studies. The thrust of these
programmes would be on innovations rehabilitation technology. The
situation now is that disability is studied in a piecemeal fashion, as
part of other disciplines such as medical science, social work,
special education and so on. The programmes recommended by the
committee however, are a judicious blend of theory and practice. They
are designed to change the mindset of society towards disability and
persons with disabilities. As such these courses would contain course
work, lectures, field work and an internship. There would be
compulsory course work even for the doctoral programme, he said.

According to Mr. Karna the committee took pains to ensure that the
draft syllabi for these courses were not carbon copies of similar
programmes offered in developed nations. "We wanted includes aspects
of Indian culture and civilization vis-à-vis disability in these
courses. Unlike in the west, the family support system is very good in
India. What we have come up with is an Indianised syllabus for
disability studies, something that is based on Indian realities," Mr.
Karna said.

The focus of these courses would not be the study of disability but
would be the socio-economic sides of the subject. The situation in the
country is such that there is no academic paradigm which can help
policymakers understand various aspects of disability and put in place
meaningful programmes for persons with disability. The expertise of
leading scholars in disability studies would be made available to the
two centres of excellence. "We have provided for a visiting scholar
programme wherein a noted academic in this field can stay at a centre
for six months to one year," he said. The final report of the
committee is expected to contain recommendations for instituting
scholarship programmes for those who sign up for the programmes on
disability studies. Though the Central government has earmarked funds
for scholarships for the disabled, the State government too would be
asked to do its bit for furthering the cause of this discipline.

The syllabi for various programmes suggested by the committee would of
course have to be approved by the boards of study of universities.
According to Mr. Karna the government should also put in place a
mechanism to ensure that the implementation of the committee's
recommendations is not derailed by a change in government. Sometime
down the line, distance learning programmes in disability studies too
can be thought of.

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