Don't shut more doors on kids with special needs

In May, the BMC issued a notice to the Helen Keller Institute for the Deaf and Deafblind, asking it to vacate the 10 rooms it had occupied on rent at the Byculla Municipal Secondary School since 1979.

Several meetings between the school’s coordinator and BMC authorities ensued, one as recently as Tuesday, to hammer out some kind of solution so that the children could still attend this school.

Yet on Thursday, just two days after the final meeting, the BMC sealed the institute, with a notice stating that the civic body wants to use the space for its own school.

The civic authorities must allow the school for the deafblind and deaf to co-exist with the new learning facility for the other children. They need to sit down with the school authorities and work out a way by which some classrooms may be given for the new children, while the differently-abled also continue to learn there. Shifting the classes to another vicinity, perhaps much further than it is currently, is not an option given how difficult it is for these children to commute to far-flung places.

Also, it is an institute one can be justifiably proud of, given that it was the first of its kind in Asia. That this school imparts education for free is certainly a boon for the 50-odd sight and hearing-challenged children studying there. Parents of these kids are in limbo the uncertainty is playing on their minds and they are hugely worried about their children’s future.

It is important we keep spaces open for the differently-abled. They face huge challenges in our society because of lack of opportunities and avenues. Let us not shut one more door on them. In fact, it is ironical and tragic that while so much is being said about making society more inclusive, this school was forced to shut its doors.

All it would have taken is the will, and some astute juggling, to find a way in which the deaf, deafblind kids, as well as municipal students could have used the premises.

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