“Rehabilitation is a Bridge Spanning the Gap”

By Sile Byrne

In the lead up to departure my mind danced with expectations of what my placement in APD would entail. I was experiencing a cocktail of emotions, from nervousness and doubt, to eagerness, inadequately and excitement. I wondered what I could bring to APD, what expertise I could offer to enhance the educational experience of those belonging to the community.

As I sat in the reception of the Association for People with Disabilities and took in my surroundings, a plaque caught my eye, it read ‘Rehabilitation is a bridge spanning the gap- Between uselessness and usefulness- Between hopelessness and hopefulness -Between despair and happiness.’ It was then I realized that I was to become part of something incredibly valuable.
I quickly began to adjust to the exuberant disarray that was the Indian classroom. The children’s joy and playfulness permeated the atmosphere in the school, and was echoed in the easy attitudes of the teachers and other staff.
Within minutes of our arrival to APD I was confronted by the wide range of abilities and disabilities of those attending. I was moved by how they were being empowered through the education and therapies they were afforded. I began to imagine what it would mean to be an educator there and quickly became overwhelmed, to cater to the needs of all the children and adults in the classroom was a task I couldn’t fathom.
I found myself endlessly thinking about what inclusive education meant and in turn realized my passion for providing it. It became my goal as a volunteer to contribute to the social and academic flourishing of all children in APD, regardless of their abilities and disabilities, as best I could. I was indignant on behalf of those who were not being fully supported and was struck by how deeply unsettling I found it.
‘I have studied economics and I hope to become the manager of a company’, ‘I have studied education and I will become a teacher’, ‘I hope to have a family and get a good job’. These were just some of the responses from the young adults in the training centre in APD when asked about their future goals. As I reflect on the privilege of having spoken to these people and had them share their hopes and aspirations with me I am overcome with emotion. Many of them experienced disappointment and discrimination because of their disabilities, yet they stood full of confidence and hunger for the future as they spoke.
APD is a step on the ladder to equality for children and adults with disabilities. Their abilities are emphasized, their aspirations nurtured and their needs and happiness as a person are prioritized. The organization has made great strides towards inclusive education and has inspired in me the desire to do the same in my classroom on my return home.
As my second week in ADP draws to a close I have truly come to understand the fact that inclusion in life and education is a right for all, not just those for whom it is easy to provide.