Prof. Anil K. Aneja
Positions and Perspectives: At the Cross-roads of Inclusion in a Globalized World
Prof. Anil K. Aneja
While inclusion and equity are the important fundamentals at the core of social and legislative formations, history has been witness to a contrary movement of fragmentation and disintegration of these primary human values leading to a further marginalization of the vulnerable segments of our civilization—particularly persons with disabilities. Such negative trends have been catalyst in the formulation and pronouncement of several international declarations and policies both at the global and national levels with an attempt to position a world free from exclusion and discrimination for such persons. The opening and widening of borders conceptually and physically over last three decades have generated further hopes of an inclusive and equitable world particularly within the paradigm of globalization.
The presentation will examine some of these recent positions and perspectives with a view to contextualizing these regarding their effect on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in general and the visually impaired in particular with specific reference to the domain of higher education. While the significance of inclusive education as a means to ensure a meaningful life is valid for all, it becomes all the more relevant for the blind and the partially sighted owing to knowledge and skills being important means to provide additional empowerment to such persons. Perhaps, realizing this critical role of education in the lives of the visually impaired, there have been salient international initiatives to ensure quality education at the school levels for this marginalized sector. However, this paper holds that adequate attention has not been paid to work towards a quality higher education for the blind and the low vision, something which has resulted in significant gaps impacting employment and live-skills aspects in many instances. The paper further argues that while globalization and technologies are generally seen to be opening fresh opportunities in higher education for the visually impaired, these very developments have posed fresh challenges for the blind, strategies for overcoming which need to be urgently worked out. In terms of pedagogy, teaching-learning processes pose fresh challenges due to the introduction of virtual learning environments in classrooms, interactive boards and power points etc. Similarly, some of the traditional subjects which the blind and the low vision study are not as much in demand in the job market as these used to be earlier. The inclusion of increasing visual content in curricula is yet another challenge.
It also needs to be interrogated whether technology and social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook which in some respects appear to bring people closer, have had a similar impact in terms of bridging distances when it comes to persons with disabilities, particularly the visually impaired. A high level of individualism appearing to accompany globalism at times, also appears to be more as an instrument of exclusion rather than inclusion.
Keeping various national and international policies and declarations and other international documents at the centre, the paper hopes to foreground some of the strategies which need to be put in place to make tertiary education, accessible, inclusive and comprehensive for the blind and the partially sighted. These would include ways of making libraries print accessible in an inclusive manner, formulation of appropriate policies and initiatives to ensure independence in acquiring higher education, website accessibility, classroom accommodation skills etc. The presentation also hopes to highlight ways to bring about social and personal inclusions which are critical for the overall evolution of any person, particularly at the college and the University levels. It is hoped to be demonstrated that while globalization has opened new vistas of inclusion for persons with disabilities, adequate preparations are imperative to counter its attendant dangers of exclusion particularly in the arena of tertiary education.