Volume 6 Issue 2 - July 01, 2009

Inaccessibility keeps disabled students away from Delhi University

Delhi University has 1,589 seats reserved for students with disability, of which, hardly one-third get filled up every year. Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. tries to find out why, despite claims made by the University on making their campus disabled friendly, more than a thousand seats go vacant every year.

Delhi University (D.U.), a premier institute of the country, sees thousands of aspirants from all over the country every year. But what is missing in this teeming mass of students is a rush for the 1,589 seats reserved for students with disability. This year only 375 students have applied under the disability quota meaning that more than a thousand seats will remain vacant - a trend seen every year.

Seema M. Parihar, admission coordinator for physically disabled students and Deputy Dean of Student Welfare says, One of the biggest reasons why we do not get more disabled students is because parents do not encourage their children for further studies.

If we go by the results of the special category that has been hogging the limelight ever since the C.B.S.E. results were out, we see that there does not seem to be any dearth of eligible candidates. We know that 38 disabled students scored 90 percent and above and the pass percentage in that category was 90.08 percent.

But what we do not know is that a total of 8,05,297 students appeared in the class XII examinations of which a negligible 1,683 were disabled students a mere 0.21 percent. That means that around 99.8 percent students with disability do not even make it up to the class XII!

Let us come to claim number 2 - D.U. has taken several steps to make the campus disabled friendly from constructing ramps to starting a special bus for disabled students to installing screen readers in the computers at the registration desk. Why then, are there no takers for these seats reserved for students with disability? Why then, most of the students who do apply are those with visual impairment? Where do the students with other forms of disability who clear their class XII exams go?

N.C.P.E.D.P. did an access audit of five colleges in D.U. and found out some disappointing facts about the tall claims that most colleges in D.U. make about their campus being disabled friendly.

The five colleges that were audited were Miranda House, Lady Shri Ram, Hansraj College, S.R.C.C. and Hindu College. The findings were an eye opener.

For most colleges, accessibility is mostly considered for people on wheelchairs. Except for installing text-to-speech software on dedicated computer(s) in the library, there is inadequate concern for the access needs of people with sensory impairments. Access for wheelchair users also, is restricted to the ground floor only and there is no access to facilities on the upper floors.

Even though some colleges had ramps installed, there is no consistency and at places ramps were found to be either unsafe or unusable. Moreover, extremely substandard signage was used.

Every year D.U. admits thousands of outstation candidates. But not a single hostel in D.U. is accessible to students with disability. Hostel accessibility is an important requirement to encourage disabled students to pursue further education. Some hostel rooms must be adapted even if disabled students requiring this facility have not joined yet.

The fact that inaccessibility is a major factor that keeps away students with disability can be gauged from the fact that of the five colleges audited, only Miranda House and L.S.R. had accessible rest rooms.

The University says mostly disabled students from affluent families take admissions. A fact no one can refute since any student with disability who does end up taking admission in D.U. will invariably have to stay in an outside accommodation, since hostels are inaccessible and also hire a vehicle to commute.

The access audit has laid bare some tall claims made by some of the top colleges in D.U. Mere reservation is not going to serve any purpose when very basic things like reaching the classroom or using the restroom becomes an ordeal day in and day out for the handful of students who do avail the reservation meant for students with disability.

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