Learning disabilities & Learning with disability

Nov 30, 2021


T.W. Physical and Mental disorders/ disability 

“The severity of one’s disability does not determine their level of potential. The greatest barriers that persons with disabilities have to overcome are not steps or curbs, it’s expectations.” -Karen Clay

The path to literacy is not the same for everyone. (As discussed in earlier articles of this series). Due to factors like financial constraints, cultural influence, restricted provisions, and non-flexibility of the educational system, many children and adults who want to walk on the path of literacy and education tend to be deprived of this facility. While we have the conversation about literacy disadvantages we need to understand about learning difficulties and disability and the system’s approach towards it.

Differently abled people are deemed to be “privileged” for the mere chance of being literate. People often don’t realise the difficulties they face to adjust in a system designed for abled people. Disabled students or students with physical handicaps have to work extra to achieve the bare minimum. Many institutions do not have proper facilities to support these students. School buildings do not have wheelchair friendly designs. Many schools do not have proper aids or appropriate exam arrangements for visually impaired students. Many educational organizations do not provide appropriate classroom accomodation or supportive technologies for hearing-impaired students or students with mutism. There are  many cases of negligence from the concerned authorities that make literacy and education unattainable or (at the least) unfair & stressful for the differently-abled.

There are also different kinds of reading difficulties or mental conditions that exist but are not well considered in the equation of literacy. It is important to understand that unlike popular misconceptions people with reading disabilities (or any mental disorders) are not people whose brain “does not work properly” but simply that their brain works differently from neurotypical people. Mental conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, and hyperlexia are learning disorders that include symptoms like weak phonological processing, lack of reading & writing fluency, and poor comprehension. There isn’t enough awareness and acceptance around mental health disorders. So, when students with learning impairments are not accounted for their needs and requirements, they are left to perform poorly. They are forced to compromise and left without any incentive. 

Schools do not accommodate resources and requirements of students with mental and physical impairment and companies are hesitant to hire them. Literacy for them does not lead to many opportunities or benefits as it would for a nondisabled person. Instead it is a challenging path where their uniqueness and necessities are not considered nor valued. They are expected to “work harder” and burn themselves out more than others for half as much. This opens the conversation about policies and resources made available to make learning accessible to all students. The system follows the same old system and views students who are different as incompetent and a liability. Authorities fail to realize the potential in investing in people who are different because that would only increase the standard of living and bring greater development for our society. We need to invest in people. We need to create a change. Changes like: building attitudinal, organizational, architectural, communicational , and technology-wise disability-friendly campus; reforming curriculum & introducing inclusive flexible courses for neurodivergent students; educating students and parents about disabilities and implementing non-discrimination policies; making aids such as audio, video, and braille textbooks, sign-language, trained-staff to assist students, and othet such supports accessible and compulsory in schools and institutions; etc.

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