Towards successful vocational rehabilitation for persons with intellectual disability

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Towards successful vocational rehabilitation for persons with intellectual disability


                                                                                                  Dr. Usha Grover

                                                                                         Sr. Lecturer (special education)                      

                                                                                          Former Officer In-charge

                                                                                    NIMH Regional Centre New Delhi



Historically it was believed that a person with intellectual disability (PWID) were not very productive as their adaptive abilities did not commensurate with the person of average intelligence. It was also believed that they were not to be brought to the notice of the community, they should be kept within the four walls and all they needed were food, clothing, shelter, and activities to take care of their leisure. However, with the increased awareness, development in the service model and advancement in the technology coupled with the strength of rehabilitation legislation, gradually the PWID are now engaged in open employment with either some support or no support.

However, the progress in this regard is left much to be desired. There is a great need to improve the rehabilitation services, so that, most of the PWID receive vocational training and employment.


Definition of vocational rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation means that part of continuous and coordinated process of rehabilitation, which involves the provision of those vocational services, e.g. vocational guidance, vocational training and selective placement, designed to enable a person with disability (PWD) to secure and retain suitable employment.

The current status of vocational rehabilitation:-

According to NSSO 58th Round Survey on usual activities of the PWD three categories are given below:

  Labour force:

Ø  working or being engaged in economic activities (work) (employed);

Ø  Not engaged in economic activities (work) but available for work (unemployed).

  Out of labour force:

Ø  Not engaged in work and also not available for work.

The data obtained by the survey is as follows:

Table 01: Per 1000 distribution of PWID by broad usual activity status for each sex





Out of Labour Force










Table 02: Per 1000 distribution of PWD by broad usual activity status





Out of Labour Force

intellectual disability




Mental Illness




With Blindness




With Low Vision




Hearing Impairment








Locomotor Disability





Current scene of vocational rehabilitation


Ø  Above data (table 01) reveals that only 08% of males with intellectual disability are employed where as 92% are out of labour force. Also, only 1.6% of females with intellectual disability are employed where as 98.4% are out of labour force. The data also depicts that number of females with intellectual disability is much less than the number of males with intellectual disability. However, there is no data about how many of these out of labour PWID have undergone appropriate schooling and vocational training.


Ø  Cross disability comparison depicts that out of all the categories the number of PWID employed is minimum whereas out of labour force is maximum. As per PWD Act, 1995 there is a provision of 03% reservation in Govt. Jobs identified for PWD (01% HI, 01% VI and 01% OH). But, PWID are not included in this reservation provision due to which finding suitable jobs is more challenging for them.

Ø  There is no agenda about transition in most of the schools.

Ø  No survey about where PWID go after they leave school.

Ø  No latest survey regarding number of adult training centre or vocational training centres in India.

Ø  Jobs should be identified for PWID as per the changing needs and demands of society.

Ø  Parents turn to their local community for vocational training & job placement assistance.

Ø  Majority are comfortable if their children are permitted to continue special school by engaging them in time pass activities.

Ø  Few students with intellectual disability join sheltered workshop.

Ø  Few get community employment.

Ø  Majority of the students with intellectual disability are unemployed and are at home.


UNCRPD (Article 27)


States Parties recognize the right of PWDs to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to PWDs. States Parties shall safeguard and promote the realization of the right to work, including for those who acquire a disability during the course of employment, by taking appropriate steps, including through legislation.


The writer has appealed to all the service providers especially those working with adults having intellectual disability; to ‘Switch Gear’ if ‘Providing a Right to Work’ to persons with Intellectual Disability has to become a reality. Following ingredients for successful vocational rehabilitation are suggested.

Ingredient for successful vocational rehabilitation


Investigate the status of rehabilitation services available for PWID. Survey the numbers of students for whom the rehabilitation services are required also find out how many vocational training centers or adult training centers are available for this population.

W wider range of vocational trades

Think out of the box occupations (non-traditional). Instead of including traditional trades like- stationery making, candle making, screen printing etc. there should be a shift to non-traditional occupation such as manufacturing process industry, agriculture, agro based industry, food processing (pickle making, jam making etc), printing services, sales outlets and self or group employment activities etc. Non-traditional activities have edge over the traditional ones as the PWID will get an opportunity in the competitive world. This will enhance their skills and earning capacity and opportunity of employment.

Also, there is a need to simplify various professional training courses offered by different institutions like- Polytechnics, ITI’s etc. so that, PWID can be reasonably accommodated in these courses. The machinery and equipments needs to be modified or adopted to enhance accessibility for PWID.

Industry and commerce

Have linkages with industry and commerce. Explore the types of the jobs in the industry as suitable for PWID. The scope of open employment lies in the industry and commerce. Industry and commerce will come forward if they are able to see the advantage of employing a PWID in such jobs where they are suitable. Appropriate orientation program need to be designed in this regard. Allow PWID to show case their abilities at various industries.


TTransitional  Planning      

Make transitional planning an important agenda item for discussion. While academic achievement is always considered important but over emphasis on this at the cost of more beneficial functional training is undesirable. The ultimate goal of the rehabilitation is to support the people for employment success and independent living.

Give vocational training throughout the primary, secondary and prevocational level of schooling, so that, the child had mastered work force readiness skills. Systematic school instruction is the foundation of vocational training and employment. Special school curriculum includes the prevocational/occupational aspects. Children with intellectual disability are taught the daily living skills through the functional curriculum from preprimary to prevocational levels. The functional curriculum equips the children with intellectual disability with necessary work readiness skills.

NIMH has developed “NIMH Transition Model” for the rehabilitation of PWID. However, more models for transition from school to work should be researched and successful models be replicated.                                                            

Monitoring should be done on regular basis. Continuous evaluation is part and parcels of any successful program to assess the strength and limitations, so that, modifications can be made.

C Certification of vocational courses

Development of curriculum for vocational courses should be done. This will help the PWID to master the required skills in the job market. These courses should be certified by competent authority of institutions such as ITI’s, Polytechnics etc. so that, it is easy to PWID to get jobs.

Human Resource  

Prepare trained human resource for vocational training centres. The situation with regard to trained human resource in vocational training is comparably low. There are only few centres offering the course of Diploma in Vocational Training and Employment. There is therefore acute need to promote the training centres for the vocational instructors and the vocational units in the field, so that, adults with intellectual disability coming out of the school system are in a planned way imparted with vocational skills and adult social skills for the ultimate goal of living independently (Wehman and Hill, 1985)

It has been observed that most of the vocational training centres are running without qualified vocational instructors which are detrimental to the development of the PWID. The studies have revealed that on the job training and job placement is discouragingly low which can be attributed to be absence of qualified vocational instructors at the centre. It is therefore desirable that every vocational training and placement centre should engage professionals specifically trained in vocational training of PWID.

Ground work          

Prepare the society Transition planning should be done with cooperation with parents & community members. More adult training centre and vocational training centres must be initiated.

           There is a need for involvement of parents, social workers, vocational instructors and supervisors at the work site, the employers and the rehabilitation therapist and work as a team.


Prepare the society

A society need to be prepare, so that, PWID are accepted with their functional abilities as much as the other citizens. Public education programs, Nukkad Natikas, depicting the success stories on the capability of PWID should be developed.

Have a section for vocational training in every special school and open up industrial training institutions for PWID.


It is often observed that the responsibility of special school ceases after graduating the students out of the education system as a result of which the PWID after the school spend their lifetime with the family without any productive life. In order to induce knowledge of work and putting the students on the work of their choice it is necessary that every special school provide vocational training. By doing so all the students coming out of the school system who usually dropout will receive vocational training and placement.

Open up special employment exchanges and they should facilitate the job placement of PWID by maintaining special register and making special efforts.


E  Effective Team work

Use team approach for quality services in rehabilitation process. Team work plays an important role in designing the vocational training and placement program for the PWID. It is an interdisciplinary effort, the success of which depends on effective team work (Rao and Sivakumar, 2003). There is a need for involvement of parents, social workers, vocational instructors and supervisors at the work site, the employers and the rehabilitation therapist and work as a team.

A  Assessment, planning & monitoring   

            Assessment planning and monitoring is the key for successful post school transition. The assessment should address the following areas:

o   Academic skills.

o   Communication.

o   Social and interpersonal.

o   Occupational and vocational.

Without comprehensive assessment of student skills it is difficult to identify the needs that should be addressed in the student transition plan. Also, community assessment is very important for effective transition planning. Detailed SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunity and Threats) analysis for the community should be done while planning the vocational rehabilitation for PWID. After implementation of training program monitoring should be done on regular basis. Continuous evaluations is part and parcel of any successful program to assess the strength and limitations, so that, modifications can be made.


Research on identification of suitable jobs should be taken up. Usually the job designed by the PWID were related to paper, clothes, chemical, and food items. Book binding, envelope making, file making, file molding, greeting cards making, screen printing, are paper related. In the cloth section embroidery, hand block painting, stitching, waiving and tailoring are some trades. Agarbatti making, chalk making, phenyl making, washing power etc. are known as chemical based trades. Food items consist of pickle making and tea making.  It is advisable to shift from the traditional occupation to non-traditional occupation, so that, PWID are recognized as productive workers.  

More avenues for competitive and supportive employment opened up. The scope of competitive and supporting employment is larger than the sheltered workshop employment. The PWID can attained the quality of life to the extent possible as open employment will enhance their self image, social fraternity at the work place the economic independence, resulting in self sufficiency.


   As stated under UNCRPD Article 27 (Work and employment) persons with disabilities have right to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. In order to meet this goal, service providers need to think out of the box and provide what is the need of the hour in vocational areas. We need to change gear and change our thinking for better empowerment of adults with intellectual disability.


As highlighted in the article there is a need for training in non-traditional localized trades which have effective marketing and have connections with the industry, so that, adults with intellectual disability find a place to work. For making this dream is reality lot of ground work and research is essential so that, required human resource can be prepared and goals towards vocational rehabilitation may be achieved.


References :

Narayan,  J. (1990), Vocational Training and Employment of Persons with Mental Retardation. National  Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad.

Thressea Kutty, A.T and Govinda Rao, L. (2001). Curriculum for Vocational Education - Transition of

              Persons with Mental Retardation from School to work, National Institute for the Mentally

              Handicapped, Secunderabad.

Thressea Kutty, A.T and Govinda Rao, L. (2001). Transition of Persons with Mental Retardation from

              School to work – A Guide, National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad.

Disabled Persons in India, NSSO 58th Round Survey Report (July – December 2012)