Volume 3 Issue 11 - June 01, 2005

Despite sterling performance in board exams D.U colleges inaccessible for disabled student

DNIS News Network - For a student having scored 92 per cent in the Central Board of Secondary Education (C.B.S.E) exams, admission to a college and course of her or his choice should be a cakewalk, but not so if the student is a wheelchair user.

“I wanted to get into Sri Ram College of Commerce or St. Stephen’s college but they are inaccessible and not wheelchair-friendly,” says Nipun Malhotra, a patient of arthogrychosis. Nipun scored an aggregate of 89.5 per cent (a best-of-four of 92 per cent required for admission to Delhi University colleges), and is all set to realise his goal of higher business studies to become an entrepreneur one day.

“I would like to work for issues of disability so that India becomes friendlier to persons with disability,” he says with great confidence and indicates that the problem is systemic and not individual specific. “India is not friendly to wheelchair users; movement in general is very difficult. It is not so in Europe,” he adds.

Nipun now plans to join a private management college, which he says is structurally equipped to allow free movement on a wheelchair. The decision is an outcome of dejection. “It would have been fun at one these colleges where my other friends plan to join,” he laments.

But he is a fighter to the core, and says that the reason why he wants his case to be highlighted is because he wants others like him - who may not be as financially privileged enough to pay high fee - to be able to join state-run colleges. On being asked about the extra challenges, compared to his classmates, which he had to confront to prepare for exams, he answers: “I love books but going to markets, bookshops and libraries is difficult.”

Nipun’s mother, Priyanka Malhotra, says the struggle to draw attention to the issue of access has been a lonely battle. She has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Abdul Kalam, appealing for intervention to address the problem of access that her son and others with disability face on a daily basis.

“It’s high time that not just the government but private institutions too recognize the need to make public places user-friendly for individuals with physical disabilities and special needs. Attempts are made but they are half-baked. I would like to urge the concerned authorities in government and private sectors to take note of all buildings and public facilities to be fully accessible for the frail, elderly and physically challenged. It was heartening to see the president of our nation walk down to the recipients of the Padma awards who were in wheelchair. So I am sure my plea will not go unheard,” she wrote in the letter.

Nipun’s case clearly highlights that despite almost a decade having gone by since the enactment of Persons With Disability Act, India’s largest and most sought after university remains literally fenced for students with disability.

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