Every year since 1987, National Science Day is celebrated on February 28. On this day in 1928, Sir C.V. Raman discovered the famous "Raman Effect", about scattering of light. He was awarded Nobel Prize in physics for this discovery in 1930. The day is commemorated to uphold the significance of scientific applications in our daily lives, to display all the activities, efforts and achievements in the field of science for human welfare and to inculcate scientific temper. Schools, colleges and universities throughout the country organize events and exhibitions that showcase their respective researches and discoveries in the field.
Every year the day is assigned a theme. For 2017 the theme is "Science and Technology for Specially-abled Persons". A person is said to be specially-abled if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that has a significant impact on his/her daily life. This encompasses a wide range of impairments from physical impairments like partial or total loss of sight, difficulty in hearing, inability to speak, various forms of immobility involving arms, legs or spine to mental impairments like autism and dyslexia.
For the country where 2.21 % population is estimated to be specially-abled, the theme "Science & Technology for Specially -abled" for celebrating National Science Day is completely justified. Talking of J&k state, as per census 2011 our state has around 3.61 lakh specially-abled persons. Another study places the number of disabled persons as high as 6 lakh out of which 1.2 lakh have orthopaedic disability and around 0.9 lakh suffer from mild to severe type of mental illness.
In today's world when science and technology has penetrated into every sphere of life, how can lives of specially-abled persons remain untouched? Severity of many of the impairments mentioned above can be reduced by technology. Innovations in technology can help specially-abled person to lead an independent and near normal life.
In the area of prosthetics for example, advances in material science, electronics and neuroscience has resulted in creation of prosthetic limbs that are controlled directly by the brain. From self balancing and stair climbing wheel chairs to cars which replace driver seat with wheel chair, technology has promised it all. For visually impaired refreshable Braille displays, wearable finger reader for reading books, position sensing wrist bands with the capability of speech providing assistance in navigation, electric lollipop providing optical sensation enabling the user to taste the light and thousands of other products have come to the rescue of those who suffer visual impairment. Large number of assistive technologies including hearing aids, Cochlear implants are available for persons with hearing impairments.
Science may have done wonders and tons of gadgets and applications may be available for specially-abled people but we are still lacking and there is still lot of scope in this area. If science and technology cannot provide relief to the specially-abled people then it is of little use. The fact is that it is not enough to innovate, design, produce and market the products for specially-abled, the products should be affordable to them as well, especially in Kashmir where the population of specially-abled particularly those with visual impairments has increased over a last year or so. It should be a matter of concern that research and innovation in this direction in our otherwise efficient educational and research institutes is negligible. The only possible reason for this neglect is lack of sensitization towards the issues related to specially-abled people.
The road map to address the issues of specially-abled people starts with sensitizing academia and industry by highlighting the never ending scope in this area. Adequate funding needs to be made available for R&D. Making the latest gadgets and applications accessible and affordable is the step which is followed by providing education and training for specially-abled persons for which necessary infrastructure needs to be developed. Assistance in the placement and any entrepreneurial endeavour needs to be facilitated. last but not the least specially-abled friendly public amenities needs to be created.
Disabled Population by Type of Disability India : 2011
Type of Disability Persons Males Females
Total 26,810,557 14,986,202 11,824,355
In Seeing 5,032,463 2,638,516 2,393,947
In Hearing 5,071,007 2,677,544 2,393,463
In Speech 1,998,535 1,122,896 875,639
In Movement 5,436,604 3,370,374 2,066,230
Mental Retardation 1,505,624 870,708 634,916
Mental Illness 722,826 415,732 307,094
Any Other 4,927,011 2,727,828 2,199,183
Multiple Disability 2,116,487 1,162,604 953,883
Author is Assistant Professor Department of Information Technology, Central University of Kashmir.