Inclusive education is causing Braille & sign language to nearly disappear in Tamil Nadu schools

Many visually impaired people in Tamil Nadu have little little or even no training in Braille and sign language.

According to some experts, this is because inclusive education at the school level and lack of Braille books at the higher education level are causing Braille and sign language to virtually disappear.

With audio books and text to audio conversion software easily available now, and software like Nvidia and JAWS, that read texts aloud, visually impaired people are able to type.

Most school students are not aware about Braille, say special educators. Even though the government provides Braille books, teachers in mainstream schools are not adequately trained to teach them.

Under the inclusive education system, disabled kids are taught with other children. Special educators break down these lessons for special children through different teaching aides. There is no government school or government-aided school with a full-time special educator since inclusive education was mandated in Tamil Nadu schools 10 years ago.

The appointed teachers are supposed to cover many schools and teach a mix of special students from various classes. Special teachers say that they don't even get a day to cover a month’s syllabus for special children.

The limited time is not sufficient to identify and enrol special children and track the progress of students who are enrolled either, say teachers. Regular teachers are given training in Braille and sign language only for five days a year, which is not enough, say experts.

The number of people who know how to read Braille books had reduced by more than 50%, say some trainers for visually impaired students. Some of the reasons for the falling Braille readership is the rising cost and non-availability of Braille books in many subjects.

Experts say that children should be taught Braille at a younger age. Braille should also be made compulsory as a medium for visually impaired kids during exams until Class 8 at least.

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