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«SIMM ® EDUCATION A N D E M P L O Y M E N T OF THE BLIND - THE CASE OF WEST BENGAL Bikas C. Sanyal, P. K. Giri, M. Roychowdhury, A. K. Pati,. ...»

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16. One out of three respondents had a stop-gap job after completing training. In 54% of the cases, these jobs were related to their training.

'Persuasion1 through personal contacts is the most important 17.

way of getting a.job for the blind. Neither the special employment exchange office, nor the media, nor letters of recommendation, had any significant role to play. Although 130 of the respondents had registered themselves with the employment exchange office, only 34 received calls from that office. This reinforces the remark on the efficiency of the employment exchange office.

18. Among the respondents, 40% have open employment, 20% selfemployment and the remaining 40% are unemployed.

19. Among the regular employed individuals, 56% got jobs within two years after completing their training; 18% had to wait for six years or more.

20. The majority (89%) of the respondents who were employed opined that education was at least useful for getting the job.

21. Amongst the open employed, 51.1% held jobs in the public sector, 39% in the private sector, and the remainder got their jobs in the semi-government autonomous sector. Of the open employed blind, 90% have permanent jobs, 40% professional/technical jobs; 38.6% are service workers, and the remainder are in production, sales and clerical work. Of the self-employed, 75% are engaged in agricultural activities.

- 97 of open employees find their regular job related to the __ stop-gap job they had.

23. Most of the blind (94%)find their status at work more or less the same as that of the sighted workers; 68% opined that their sighted co-workers treated them with compassion, 24% that they treated them as equals, and only 8% that their co-workers were indifferent.

Most of them (96%) felt that the employers' attitude towards them was favourable.

24. Of those that are employed, 36% are not satisfied with their jobs. However, most of them (79%) think that their salaries are commensurate with their duties, and 65% that their salaries are commensurate with their training, although our analysis shows that duration of training does not influence the earnings of the employed blind.

25. Most of them (87%) opine that their promotion in work dependson seniority.

26. For self-employed respondents, voluntary agencies were the most important source of capital for their enterprises (76% of cases).

Government plays an insignificant role, supporting only 20% of cases.

Non-availability of regular employment was the main reason for taking up self-employment.

27. For the unemployed blind, lack of job opportunities ranks first as the cause of unemployment, followed by lack of information. Not having the necessary capital is the main reason for not being self-employed, followed by lack of information.

28« Stop-gap jobs, followed by age and home region, are the major predictors of open employment. Length of duration of education has on the other hand a negative effect. Sex and parents' education do not have any influence on employability.

–  –  –

30p Attitude of the family members, relatives, neighbours and friends changed significantly in favour of the blind after they had obtained employment. Most of those blind persons who were married (83%) opined that their status in the family and the community had improved after their marriage. One out of three respondents in our sample was married, and 44% of the employed respondents were married.

Amongst those that were married, 78% were employed In 20 cases (out of 75), the spouse was also blind; 91% of the blind (whether employed or not) felt that they were on equal footing with other members of the family. This leads us to believe that education might have an effect on the status of a blind person in the family.

31. Ten out of thirteen employers expressed the opinion that the quantum of the work of blind persons compares favourably with that of the sighted; 11 of them considered that the quality of the work was at least fair.

32. In general, employers have reservations in respect of the productivity of a blind worker, even if they are positive about their overall quality in the work environment. The majority of the enterpris in our sample did not intend to employ any more blind workers, which is a very negative finding indeed!

33. In contrast with the trained blind, the beggars feel that they are looked upon as inferior to others in the family. Poverty and lack of education have a strong association with the blind taking up begging as a profession. They do not think that blind persons could do productive work or undertake any training; they lack information on educational and employment opportunities. Their earnings from begging however are not insignificant.

- 99

–  –  –

Based on the findings given above, the implications for planning of education and employment of the blind could be derived at

both international and national levels:

–  –  –

Since we are living in the decade of disabled persons, it is natural that the international agencies pay serious attention to the amelioration of the quality of life for the blind. The first task is to identify the target group, i.e. the blind in all countries with complete geographical coverage. Population censuses should cover with all seriousness the identification of the disabled, and in our case the blind. Intercensal surveys should be conducted in countries where the most recent census has not enumerated this group. Without the identification of the target group, no planning effort to uplift the conditions of life of the blind can be useful and serious. National co-operation, of course, is essential to carry out this task.

The international agencies should make available the services of experts for this task in countries where such services are scarce.

They should also provide expert services to develop suitable centres for taking care of the blind as soon as this handicap is detected, either at birth or later. So that congenitally blind children do not fall victim to societal prejudices and indiferrence, or are led into illicit professions such as begging, centres should be set up to take special care of them from birth. As they grow up, they should be provided with special education and training suitable for their rehabilitation.

A great many improvements have been made in the content and method of instruction of the blind, particularly to make them more mobile, to perform socially useful tasks and to make their daily life smoother.

The know-hows should be widely distributed in the different countries along with the provision of suitable expertise from the international agencies. These agencies should assist in setting up training of instructors for rehabilitation of the blind concerning all aspects of growing up independently, education/training and employment.

- 100 The international agencies should also support research work on innovative experiments in rehabilitating the blind, and disseminate the results of such research. The same actions are also needed for the adventitious blind, except of course the provision of post-natal special care. To reduce the number of cases of adventitious blindness, specialized agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) should undertake special programmes to inform the general public, particularly in rural areas of developing countries, about the methods of preventing and curing such cases. Our study demonstrates that general disease is the most frequent cause of adventitious blindness. Timely treatment could cure a number of such cases. Lack of education of parents/guardians and not their means has been noted to be responsible for indifference towards timely treatment, leading to loss of sight.

The international agencies could also help in creating worldwide awareness of the benefits of well-organized education/training centres and employment opportunities for the blind, and of the cost of their dependence on society.

2.2 Implications for planning at the national and state level The national authorities have to take more responsibility than the international agencies in providing education and employment opportunities for the blind. The society's attitude towards the blind has been deplored, and only the national authorities can change such attitudes through the use of media, legislation and provision of special facilities for the blind in order to improve their conditions. In the particular context of our study, we have found that lack of information on the educational and employment opportunities for the blind is the most important reason for their plight. Most of the information they receive comes from friends, parents and relatives, and the media and other organized information sources play a very insignificant role (Chapter The country should emphasize the role of the media in disseminating information on the educational opportunities for the blind.

- 101

–  –  –

Village councils and the Panchayats should be involved in identifying the blind and placing blind children in centres. It is a paradox that there are many blind people in West Bengal who go without care, and yet there are several education/training centres for the blind that have difficulty in registering the blind in their centres free of charge. Attachment towards, dependence on, and the temporary security given by the family, discourage the blind from attending these education/training centres. The long-term benefit of education/training has to be demonstrated to them, and this requires persuasive efforts from the centres as well as from the community and the family.

A three-tier system of education can be conceived: (i) special schools for correcting developmental deficiency with compensatory and remedial teaching programmes, where both normal and the multi-handicapped blind can be trained, (ii) an integrated system of education with special facilities for the blind including teachers trained in teaching blind children and having special programmes for the blind on concept formation, mobility, and daily living training, and (iii) vocational training-cumrehabilitation centres imparting training for skills easily achievable for the blind. A very long list of tasks which the blind could perform has been prepared by the Rehabilitation Services Division of the National Industries for the Blind, U.S.A.(1) A survey of markets for employment of the blind could provide the possible areas of training to match the employment needs. This would, under certain conditions as we shall see later, increase the relevance and usefulness of the training programmes.

The Ministry of Education should join hands with the Ministry of Social Welfare in developing educational programmes for the blind. Needless to mention that, given the importance of the problem, all educational facilities should be provided free of charge to the blind.

–  –  –

We have observed that in the choice of a course, the blind person takes as much responsibility as the institution itself (Chapter 4), even with very little information. It is necessary to set up career guidance facilities so as to canalize the blind to choose courses fitting their aptitudes.

As observed from our study, educational opportunities for blind women are very limited (Chapter 3). Special incentives should be provided to encourage them to enrol in educational institutions, and special training centres should be set up for them to suit their aptitudes and possible employment opportunities.

In the organization of training, the potential employers need to be involved. Periodic visits by the potential employers to the institutions, and by the blind trainees to the enterprises, might facilitate adjustment of the blind in the world of work.

The national authorities have a challenging task to perform in rehabilitating the blind in the world of work, given the prevailing reluctance of the employers to employ blind workers (Chapter 8).

Government legislation coupled with persuasion might change the attitudes of the employers. Such legislation would require an enterprise with a given number of employees to recruit a certain percentage of blind workers.

Another way to create employment would be to follow the example of the National Industries for the Blind, in the U.S.A.(1), which is a non-profit making corporation established by law to create gainful employment for the blind. The idea behind it is the 'ready market' for the products manufactured by the blind (of course controlled for quality, finish and durability). Under the Javits-Wagmer-O'Day Act of 1971, goods and services needed by government departments, and which can be manufactured by the blind, have to be purchased from the workshops for the blind. A Committee on Purchase of Blind-made Products was set up by the U.S. President to monitor the implementation of the law. At present the Board employs 5,000 trained blind workers in over a hundred plants spread throughout the country.

(1) H.J.M. Desai, ibid.

- 103 This serves as an example to be followed by the developing countries like India, and also states like West Bengal, where money is often wasted in providing training for the blind which cannot be used on the job.

A network of workshops and training centres set up to produce the goods and services to be sold in the 'ready market' could provide not only more relevant training but gainful employment as well. Such workshops and training centres could be set up in or around the existing training institutions staffed by professionally qualified people to impart the necessary training with a human touch and to control the quality of the products and services.

Our study demonstrates that stop-gap jobs not only promote employment but also they are more related to the employment that a trained worker ends up with (Chapter 5)~. -This would imply promotion of such pre-employment programmes.

Rehabilitation programmes at the state-level leave much to be desired. The Special Employment Exchange Office has to be strengthened in order to perform its role properly. The fact that rather than the competence of the blind person, the 'persuasion' of the rehabilitation officer is the most important means for getting a job, is the result of the lack of an employment policy for the blind. Also, the work of the different rehabilitation agencies needs proper co-ordination to avoid duplication and overlapping of efforts.

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