While some universities provide suitable access to facilities for disabled students, many still lack disabled-friendly infrastructure.
Bengaluru: Many universities across Karnataka are far from accessible to Persons with Disability (PWD), despite the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines and rules and guidelines created under the Rights of Person with Disability Act.
A study done in 2019 shows the lack of access to libraries for students with disabilities in many universities across Karnataka due to several physical and technological factors.
Chitkala Sharma, a student from Mysore University said, “Our University has most of the required facilities (ramps, wheelchairs, disabled-friendly toilets, etc.) for disabled students.” She added, “It has started making repositories for braille as well as audiobooks. It’s not completed yet, but students can access it.” Chitkala is currently studying speech and hearing in the University of Mysore.
While some universities like Mysore University have most of the facilities available for disabled students, a few universities like Christ lack disabled-friendly infrastructure in a few of their buildings.
Hridayraj Parab, a student with locomotor disability, studying at Christ University, said, while there are ramps, lifts, and wheelchairs available in the university, “in libraries, there aren’t any adjustable tables or braille facility,” but the faculty and staff do provide with required amenities when asked for.
Funds up to Rs.10 lakhs are provided by the University Grants Commission (UGC) on behalf of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to the universities to create special facilities such as ramps, rails, and special toilets, and make other necessary changes to suit the special needs of differently-abled persons, according to the UGC guidelines. Another one-time grant up to Rs.8 lakhs is also provided to procure special equipment to augment educational services for differently-abled persons. Even with the aid of funds, universities continue to lack in providing facilities.
While universities can apply for the grants, getting an approval to be eligible for the grants takes time. “Earlier, to get the grant the universities were supposed to have a 12B status, which did not include deemed universities, which means Christ was not eligible for the grant. The UGC recently relaxed that requirement and we have applied for the 12B status, which takes time to get approved,” said, Anil Joseph Pinto, Registrar of Christ University. He added that Christ does have braille facilities as well as audio book facilities for students with visual disabilities. These are limited but they plan on increasing the availability.
A.L. Janardhana, deputy director of programs of the Association of People with Disability (APD), said, “Universities are provided funds up to Rs. 20 lakhs to create a disabled-friendly environment.” He added that no one knows what the funds are actually being used for. A few universities might spend the funds on making ramps and disabled-friendly toilets. “A few might not even do that and use the funds for other purposes,” he said.
V. S. Basavaraju, Commissioner for Persons with Disability Karnataka, said, “Transparency regarding the availability of facilities in the institution is one of the biggest issues.” He added, “The standards mentioned under the UGC guidelines are supposed to be followed by every university. Most universities don’t consider the guidelines as the number of disabled students is very less.”
Janardhana said, “A total of five percent of the population counts for disabled people in India. We need to create an inclusive society. It should not just be limited to physical inclusion. It should also extend to the curriculum created by the universities, like the inclusion of teaching using sign language, and technological adaptations that should be undertaken by the universities.” He added that awareness and sensitisation should be created towards persons with disabilities, and this can only be done once there is a shift in attitude.
Every year, December 3 is celebrated as International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society. Also for the development of people with disabilities and to increase awareness about them in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Each year a theme is taken to create awareness about a topic; this year’s theme was ‘Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities’.