NEP will provide assistance to impaired children and direct them to the best schools, which will never say "no" to a crippled child's participation in the educational system.

This is, without a doubt, a significant step toward embracing and strengthening the disabled population as a whole. Is it a moot point to ask if we're ready for it? First and foremost, are we, as a culture, intrinsically prepared to accept such a shift? Tacit acceptance is simple, but putting it into practise is more difficult.

Are you prepared as a parent for your child to bring a wheelchair-bound friend home? "They are different, try mixing with others," you might advise when it comes to your youngster making friends with differently-abled children. The shift in thinking from 'Them' to 'Us'.

Unless addressed comprehensively, 'we' will never accept inclusion as a way of life. It is the stereotyped mindset that must be abandoned.

A disabled person requires empathy, not sympathy. It is necessary to empathise with the situation rather than sympathise with it. The ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and understand the daily struggles and pain he or she faces.

It's never easy to change a society thinking, but establishing a sensitive mindset can be rather simple if we're willing to see things from a fresh perspective.

To promote smooth entry and mobility within the school perimeters, academic institutions must provide ramp access for wheelchair-bound students.

Similarly, special bathroom facilities and height-adjustable washbasins should be set aside for these youngsters. Under inclusive learning, there are explicit requirements for accessibility and provision. But what about the ramp that society requires to improve its mental makeup?

Children with disabilities have demonstrated their capabilities in various Paralympics. Indian Paralympians have led the way by topping medal tallies at various events. Proper guidance and encouragement will ensure that all inherent mental blocks get eradicated over time.

Of course, we need to provide a solid foundation to such children but before that, as a society, we need to develop our mental foundations to allow inclusion. It is high time to embrace and empower children with special needs.

NEP 2020 also ensures that language is no longer a barrier for children as the use of local/regional vernacular has been permitted as the medium of instruction. Schools have also been directed to recruit special educators to address the academic requirements of children with special needs.

Cross-disability training for children with severe disabilities should also be addressed. For those who cannot attend school, the home-based education system has also been incorporated under the new education policy. Providing assistive devices to special needs children is also another aspect that helps in providing equitable education. Standardization of Indian sign language is another milestone that can help children with impaired hearing/speech.

Creating career paths for children with disabilities will definitely be one of the most important steps to be undertaken as a society; future courses of action should lay emphasis on career-based training and career development. The involvement of vocational courses from the school itself is providing a way for future employment opportunities. Though getting accepted into the mainstream workforce in a respectable job remains a big challenge for people with special needs.

Encouraging entrepreneurship can be a game-changer if it is addressed and encouraged by the government and the private sector holistically. Practical and forward-looking reforms are needed to create a society, where children with special needs are lovingly allowed to grow and prosper just like any other child.

Let us welcome inclusion as a way of life!

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in Times of India. The original article can be found at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/decoding-disabilities/are-we-ready-for-inclusive-education/)