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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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Currently there is a strong tendency to institutionalize the handicapped. This tends to inculcate amongst them a sense of dependence which prevents them from fully participating in community life even after they leave the protective walls of institutions. It also tends to create a certain amount of aggressiveness leading to maladjustment at- work and in other social settings.

(v) To give a positive rural bias to services for the handicapped since in India a great majority of handicapped persons live in rural communities.

(vi) To develop a strong national disability prevention programme. Currently, only a national programme for the prevention of blindness is in operation.

(vii) To prepare a base for research and development through the national institutes, institutes of technology and other bodies.

–  –  –

As of 1981, India had at least nine million economically or -^ legally blind people, with many more suffering from severe visual handicaps. Estimating the number of blind people in India suffers from the same limitations mentioned before, and the error is always biased downwards. What is striking is the fact that compared to an earlier estimate of the Government of India, made in 1944 for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh taken together, the 1981 figure is four and a half times more.(l) This indicates that the blind population is increasing at a faster rate in India than the population in general.

Improvement in methods of collecting statistics, although not yet satisfactory, could also explain fiis. But one must be concerned if this is the only reason for such a fast growth rate, and if not preventive measures must be adopted to arrest this increase.

We have mentioned before how little the society knows about the blind and the reasons for this lack of knowledge. If the condition of the disabled is to be improved, means for rehabilitating them through respectable social identities must be found. Although education is one of the essential ways to any serious action for the disabled, it is also imperative to know what would make their employment possible.

In the world today, unemployment is almost a universal problem, and employers have an abundance of able educated people from whom to recruit. As quoted by one author, the experience of a distinguished blind professor in search of a job who was told "when we are getting finished goods in the market, why take damaged ones".(2) If this is the attitude of the employers, it must be changed for the blind to be rehabilitated and employed. This reaction is a reflection of the lack of knowledge on the productive capacity of the blind. Information is now available on suitable types of jobs for the blind.', But what is not known are the perceptions of the employers about the blind from their own experience and those of the blind themselves about their own capabilities.

If they are to be rehabilitated properly, it would be useful to know whether education and employment change the social status of the blind.

In a developing country, they are very often isolated and not permitted to prove their capabilities in performing work carried out by those with sight, or they are sent out for the illicit practice of begging. Both (1) H.J.M. Desai, Planning Employment.Services for the Blind in Developing Countries, pp. cit.

(2) Sushma Batra,, Social Integration of the Blind, Concept Publishing Co., New Delhi, 1981, p.5.


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Once the blind have been trained, how can their transition from training to employment be facilitated? What should be the methods of recruitment? How should the training be organized to increase contacts with the employers in order to remove the latter's inhibitions concerning the capacity of the blind? What is the role of stop-gap jobs (posttraining, pre-employment sub-contract work in a sheltered workshop)?

What role does training play in getting a job and what other efforts should complement the training for finding employment? Who gets a regular job (open unemployment), who ends up self-employed and who remains unemployed, and why?

What type of employment (type of firm, nature of the job and skill category) do the blind get and to what extent is their training used? What is the attitude of co-workers on the job? To what extent is a blind person satisfied with the job, what is the relationship between earnings and training, and what role do characteristics such as age, sex, age of blindness, marital status, home region, parents' education and income, influence the training and employment characteristics of the blind?

All these are questions of considerable importance in planning education for the blind, and most of the answers are unknown.

3. Review of literature

Very few research studies have been undertaken on the blind to look for possible answers to the problem. The National Association for the Blind in India has explored the different possibilities of employmen for the blind in the context of a developing country(1),(2) in a descriptive way«, Based on surveys of existing institutions, this Association has come up with concrete and very useful recommendations on planning of basic (1) H.J.M. Desai, op. cit.

–  –  –

rehabilitation programmes and employment services for the blind» __ The Delhi School of Social Work surveyed all the institutions for the blind in Delhi in 1969(1) to prepare a plan for the welfare of the blind in Delhi» A survey of the vocational and educational facilities for the blind in Delhi was also carried out in 1979 by P. Matani(2) of the National Institute of Public Co-operation and Child Development»

These studies, except for the last one are mostly descriptive ; Matani's work aimed at assessing the facilities» A similar study was undertaken by Shanta Vadhyar for college-going blind persons in Bombay in 1976.(3) In 1975, the Blind Relief Association in Delhi surveyed for the first time the attitudes of employers towards the employability of the blind within their organizations(4) and concluded that the employers were reluctant to engage blind persons even though they are more efficient in certain types of work.

The Workshop for the Blind(5) in Bombay undertook another study to assess the employability of the blind and surveyed both employers and employees, to conclude that purely sheltered forms of employment were not conducive for the blind. Ramachandran(6) in his study recommends that the profession of physiotherapist could be very suitable for the blind.

Their adjustment in the society was also the subject of two other studies(7),(8), although with different approaches.

(1) Sita Basu, A Plan for the Welfare of the Blind in Delhi, Delhi School of Social Work, D e l h i, 1969.

(2) P. Matani, Educational and Vocational Facilities for the Blind, National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development, Delhi, 1979.

(3) Shanta Vadhyar, 'A Survey of Awareness and Utilisation of the Facilities available to the Blind and Orthopaedically Handicapped Students studying in Colleges of Bombay City', LBMRC Research Newsletter, Vol»No.1-4,July 1976.

(4) Report on Emerging Path to Independence, A Project Report on exploring new ways of Rehabilitating the Blind, The Blind Relief Association,Delhi,1975.

(5) The Workshop for the Blind, An Investigation of rehabilitation Workshop methods which would foster the Absorption of Blind Workers into Open Competitive Employment, Bombay, 1963-69.

(6) P. Ramachandran and T» Pandiarajan, Training the Visually Handicapped as Physiotherapists: a Feasibility Survey, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay, 197.1.

(7) Urmil Nagpal, The Adjustment Problem of the Blind, Central Institute of Education, Delhi, 1971.

–  –  –

None of these studies however went into details to find implications for educational planning. The study closest to the present one in approach and scope was undertaken by Sushma Batra(I) with the objectives of looking into the problems of social integration of the blind in the context of the city of Delhi. The study analysed the attitudes of both blind and sighted persons towards the integration of the former with the latter, based on sample surveys with scientific sampling techniques. There were useful findings on the demographic characteristics, educational and economic status, physical mobility, social rehabilitation and integration, awareness of the general public of the potentialities of the blind, and attitudes of employers. Given the global nature of the scope of the study, and the limited spatial scope, analysis of the questions mentioned above and particularly those related to education and employment are not covered. The study was based on 60 blind individuals (of whom 32 were employed), 160 sighted individuals and 22 employers. Even though the blind sample size was small, the study brings out interesting findings.

4. The present study

From the literature available on research related to the problems of the blind can be seen the dearth of emphasis on the implications for planning of education for employment of the blind. A study on blind persons who had undergone education/training was felt to be useful because their experience could provide us with the means to improve upon training for employment. The technique of tracer studies', applied in the research programme on education and employment at H E P, was found to be suitable in order to attempt to answer the questions raised above on the problems of education and employment of the blind.

The scope of the present study was therefore limited to those blind individuals who had received some kind of training, and also to one state of India, West Bengal, where at present there are nine schools for the blind that have trained over five hundred persons. The study also includes an analysis of the perceptions of employers and a group of untrained blind persons who live by begging.

–  –  –

Based on the questions raised earlier on the problem of education and employment of the blind, some of the main hypotheses tested

in our study are given below:

–  –  –

The conceptual framework on which the present research has been conducted is based on the assumption that any programme of rehabilitation of the blind is tied up with the social set-up of the community: the attitudes of the people, the state of their knowledge on the capabilities of the blind, the infrastructure for education and training of the blind, and the spontaneity of initiative taken by the community for their employment.

The criterion of economic productivity has to be replaced by the more global criterion of social satisfaction of the different groups of the society, including the blind. It is important to stress that the blind, have the right to exercise a respectful social role for the overall benefit" of the society, and not only economic benefit. The arrangements for

- 13 education of the blind have to be planned in such a way that their resource potential is explored and utilized effectively. This might need special methods of instruction and content, different types of organization of their education and training with implications for different types of physical facilities and other resources. An analysis of the state of the art of attitudes of the society towards the blind and the arrangements for their education therefore forms the initial element of such research. For their rehabilitation, the working environment, methods of recruitment, and selection criteria also need to be analysed for further adjustment to suit the blind to perform their respective roles in an effective way. The attitudes of the employers towards the blind are a part of the overall social attitude.

All this has to be kept in mind when education for the employment of the blind is planned. This is the macro-aspect of the relationship between their education and employment.

What is more important however are the micro-aspects of the relationship. In this, our analysis rests on the assumption that we are concerned with individual human beings and individual enterprises and institutions that will support the programmes of education and employment of the blind. Their background, attitudes and expectations play an important role in their rehabilitation and their education.

We believe that the social set-up, including the educational arrangements, influences the behaviour, attitudes and expectations of the individuals, their families, the community, and their expectations in respect of the social role. But, the latter is influenced directly by the individual characteristics (age, sex, marital status, type and extent of blindness)(1), the family characteristics (family size, the education, occupation and income of parents') and the community characteristics (region of home, caste).

Similarly, motivation in respect of education is generated directly by the motivation in respect of occupation, availability of education, the individual, family and community characteristics, and indirectly by the social set-up. The educational career (including stop-gap job, if any) pursued by a blind person is directly influenced by the (1) Type of blindness: congenital, adventitious.

Extent of blindness: total blindness, perception of light, residual vision.

- 14 educational expectations, the education system, and individual, family and community characteristics, and indirectly by the occupational expectations, and the social set-up through the micro-characteristics (individual, family and community variables, and type and extent of blindness).

The occupational career (open employed(1), self-employed and unemployed) is directly dependent upon the educational career, the labour market situation for the blind, the occupational expectations, and the individual, family and community characteristics, and indirectly upon the social attitudes and the education system. The items of occupational career are: career information received, placement services, recruitment methods, selection criteria, waiting period to obtain a job, working environment, type of job,"type of firm, criteria for promotion, salary, job satisfaction, attitudes of the sighted workers and employers, and utilization of training on the job for the blind who are employed.

For those that are unemployed, the items are: causes of unemployment, remedial measures for employment of the blind.

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