Decoding Disability and using Vocational Training to Support Integration in Society

By Nawal Hafeez

How Do We View Disability?

When we talk about people with disabilities, most of us are guilty of only referring to what is ‘wrong’ or lacking in the person. It is also common to generalize disabilities, view their conditions from the same lens, and use a one-size-fits-all approach while addressing their needs. So, when talking about disabilities, we need to remind ourselves to abstain from two things;

  1. Thinking that all disabilities are the same and that all people with disabilities have the same strengths and weaknesses
  2. Using and understanding the term “disability” to describe what is wrong or lacking in a person.

Instead, we need to view Disability as a collection of individual conditions and environmental factors resulting in the person’s experiences and limitations. WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health defines Disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions (WHO, 2021). This means that while talking about Disability, we not only should focus on the physical and mental impairment a person has, but we should also take into consideration the difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task, personal and environmental factors contributing to the difficulty, and restrictions imposed by a person’s society that limits involvement and participation. Thus, Disability is not only a limitation or lacking in an individual’s body or mind; it is, in fact, to be viewed as an error in the way society deals with people with disabilities and the lack of integrating opportunities available for them. People with disabilities are often left out in communal spaces such as schools and the workforce. Their needs are not recognized and often have very little social and political representation. This is mainly due to the lack of social structure to support their integration and the limited awareness in the general population to see people with disabilities as productive and abled members of their communities. This lack of support and awareness leads them to drop out of school and, consequently, leaves them with a slim chance of securing a respectable and productive position in society.

Vocational Training and Integration of People with Disabilities in Society

Spreading awareness within communities and creating adaptable environments is vital for integrating people with disabilities within society. However, another critical aspect is to equip them with the tools and understanding of self-integrating into society and to be seen as valuable citizens. Here, vocational training can be of enormous help and is often viewed as a game-changer. Vocational training helps increase self-confidence and self-sufficiency and works in creating an enabling environment for people with disabilities. It can enhance opportunities in the labor market and eventually lead to social and economic independence that aids their social integration as productive members of societies. Vocational training involves teaching people to acquire a particular skill to prepare them for a particular occupation (UNESCO, 2013). It focuses on practical experience and hands-on training instead of vague theoretical knowledge and is, therefore, easier and more appropriate for people with Intellectual Disability to learn and comprehend. Vocational training is instrumental in promoting competencies for work and life and plays a crucial role in any society’s social and economic development providing access to marginalized groups such as people with disabilities to successfully compete on the labor market (WSIS Knowledge Community, 2015). Therefore, it is not just preparation for work but preparation for life; it helps reduce dependence and empower persons with disabilities.

Increase in Quality of Life

We are all aware that employment decreases the chance of poverty and increases independence, social connectedness, and creates a sense of dignity for people with disabilities. Being employed and seen as productive contributors to their societies is vital for people with disabilities and is a step towards their rehabilitation and empowerment, and increases a sense of belonging and social acceptance. In a study conducted by UKAID to understand the impact of vocational training of people with special needs in Nepal, it was reported that individuals that received vocational and technical training showed an improvement in professional and personal social skills, improved motivation to find work, and depicted better well-being and quality of life outcomes, including increased social acceptance, self-esteem, more social opportunities and learning new skills. (Dr Erika Fraser and Dr Ola Abu Al Ghaib, 2019).

State-of-the-Art Vocational Training at Mind Center for Special Needs (MCSN):

Vocational training programs at MCSN are specifically designed to ensure that people with disabilities acquire skills that make them independent and productive in life. Our well-resourced program offers skills that are marketable and can prepare our students for a competitive labor market. At MCSN, we use specific I CAN WORK modules that include overall job readiness, self-grooming & communication skills, clerical work, retail, culinary arts, computers, gardening, bookkeeping, and food services. Our vocational curriculum is backed by our on-campus training areas designed to replicate real life settings and provide students with an authentic feel of what working on the field would be like. Vocational assessment is an essential element at MCSN’s vocational program and is done prior to selecting a specific training field for the student. This helps us choose the appropriate support services required to provide an enabling learning environment for the student, resulting in maximum gains. Vocational training at MCSN can help individuals with specific needs make the most of their abilities, especially in areas of their interest and will also provide a stepping stone towards a stable life.

References

Dr Erika Fraser and Dr Ola Abu Al Ghaib. (2019). Impact of Training Programmes for People with Disabilities. London: Disability Inclusion Helpdesk.

WHO. (2021). Disabilities. Retrieved from World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean: http://www.emro.who.int/health-topics/disabilities/index.html

WSIS Knowledge Community. (2015). Inclusive Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in the Context of Lifelong Learning. WSIS Knowledge Community (pp. 1-2). includ-ed.

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