An open and vigorous society, in which ALL children have equal access to education, where no door is shut because a child is disabled, poor, or a girl, and, where, consequently, equal opportunity becomes a reality for all citizens -- this is the vision that fuelled Dr.Mithu Alur, to establish ADAPT (formerly The Spastics Society of India).
ABLE DISABLED ALL PEOPLE TOGETHER (ADAPT)
ADAPT (formerly The Spastics Society of India), was founded by Dr. Mithu Alur in 1972. It was the first special school in India for children with cerebral palsy. At a time when little was known about developmental implications, Dr. Alur set up the first model to offer treatment and education under one roof.
The Society grew rapidly and the need for teachers and therapists became urgent. Programmes for professional training and capacity-building began, with an emphasis placed on selecting at least half the candidates for training from areas outside the city of Mumbai. The foresight paid off in ADAPT’S increased reach. Within a decade, service centres based on the first ADAPT model were established in Kolkatta and New Delhi. The Society set up branches in Bangalore and Chennai, both of which are independent today. Meanwhile, the first ADAPT students were poised to enter the community and needed the necessary occupational skills and training to do so. In 1989 the National Job Development Centre was opened in Chembur, Mumbai.
ADAPT has won national and international prestige for its committed effort and for its excellent para-medical, educational, vocational and community services for children and young adults with disabilities. ADAPT is also a leading voice speaking up for the rights and needs of people with disabilities. It has been successful in pressing for educational reforms at the school and university levels. Acceptance is now accorded to neurological disorders and concessions are made to permit extra time and amanuenses in the Board Examination system. Outstanding ADAPT students are pursuing careers in journalism, the IT sector, the financial sector, and also making headway in academic life through post-graduate and doctoral studies. ADAPT is proud of the replicability of its model, which has now spread to 18 states in the nation, but admits that the fight for the rights of the child and youth with disability still has a long way to go.
THE TRANSITION FROM SERVICES TO A RIGHTS MODEL
After providing special services for more than a quarter century, ADAPT embraced a new paradigm. It began an evolutionary shift from special schools to inclusive education. This major breakthrough in policy came about as a consequence of Dr. Mithu Alur’s doctoral research, published as Invisible Children: A Study of Policy Exclusion. More research
Dr. Alur’s research revealed the alarming exclusion of children with disabilities from the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), a pre-primary education, immunization and nutrition service in the Government of India’s high-priority agenda to provide Education For All.
Dr. Alur’s research exposed the malaise existing in the country: A firm cohesive inclusive policy to bring all children into the government’s education scheme was missing, there was instead a continued over-reliance on NGOs to give attention to children with disabilities. The situation was disturbing, to say the least. Infrastructural shortcomings, and the lack of proper fund allocations, were responsible for more than 90% of the children with disabilities remaining outside the purview of services. Concerned by the implications of this shortcoming on future generations. ADAPT reoriented its goals to embrace all children who could become potential victims, and could fall through the net of the government’s educational services.
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