mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism and multiple disabilities)
November 8, 2008
Auditorium, India International Center, New Delhi
About the Seminar
In recent years, important changes in public policies and
attitudes have resulted in improved opportunities for people
with physical and mental disabilities. Although people living
with physical disabilities have assumed their rightful place
in society in many aspects, societal attitudes have changed
less in regard to those with severe disabilities (including
mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, and multiple disabilities).
Needless to say, a broad range of non-government organizations
(NGOs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs) have directed
their efforts to improve the effectiveness, quality, and sustainability
of Government schemes, but these have been largely in the
areas of health and education. There has been a general reluctance
to address the adult needs of this population. In fact, even
formal research efforts in this area have been very limited.
In an attempt to address the abovementioned gap,
the Society for Child Development (SFCD) is organizing a National
Seminar on November 8, 2008 as an effort to look at the two
main adult needs of people with severe disabilities, namely
Sexual Health and Employment.
Sexual Health: In the past,
preventive health concerning sexuality of people with severe
disabilities was managed through surgical sterilization. It
has come progressively to light in the scientific literature
from the west that, besides major ethical and legal problems,
these programs also failed to address many of the individual's
needs in sexual health. The fact that most people with disabilities,
both intellectual and physical live in the community rather
than in institutions has heightened awareness that these individuals
have sexual expectancies, desires, and needs that must be
supported through both education and health services. These
needs vary widely from one individual to another, according
to life milieu, level of disability, and potential co-morbidity.
Hygiene management, global gynecological care, and prevention
of unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and
abuse have been frequently identified as areas in which the
presence of severe disability dictates specific support needs.
The Indian society is very closed in discussing sex and related
matters. As a result there is very little information that
is documented, and from the bits that are, it is evident that
the efforts made have largely been in the domain of biological
perspectives and rarely in the psychosocial context.
The seminar will cover a wide range of topics that seek to
expose the audience to the widespread exclusion of persons
with severe disabilities in any matter related to sex, sexuality,
marriage and reproduction; and in the process also suggest
interesting, low-cost and simple methods of changing this.
The legal diktats that summarily restrict and then deny any
hope for fulfillment will be discussed in detail and recommendations
for modification of the concerned laws made.
Employment: The dismal employment
scenario is well-known. Presentations and discussions will
center on innovative and replicable experiences that have
the power of changing the oft-encountered situation of learned
helplessness that justifies the person's lack of employment
under the garb of societal indifference. We are aware that
this does not necessarily have to be so.
The Seminar, a day-long event, is designed to be more than
just a gathering to discuss and debate issues, it is a chance
for all to share experiences and learn from each other, and
in doing so, understand the current state and the future of
these young adults in an age marked by drastic societal transformations.
The Seminar would essentially focus
on the parental perspectives of children/young adults with
severe disabilities, legal perspectives emanating thereof,
and ensuing research initiatives in this area.
The sole objective of the seminar is to bring together the
voices of researchers, academicians, professionals, and parents
on a single platform and to come out with pragmatic solutions
that would lead to greater community awareness and relevant
future research in this area. As a conscious effort, the seminar
aims to go beyond the predictable and provide fresh perspectives
by examining ways in which more inclusive forms of participation
and development of these young adults can be attained, by
giving them equal opportunities in all walks of life.