Fee Exemptions for the disabled and Accessible Infrastructure slowly rising but the varsity still has a long way to go
After a dip in the number of People with Disability (PwD) applicants to the University of Delhi in the last academic in-take, the 2019 admissions have seen a rise in the number of PwD aspirants to DU. Despite the overall decrease in the number of applicants, there has been a six per cent increase in the number of specially-abled students seeking to study in DU colleges. Expanding the sub-categories as well, for the first time, there are applications under the acid-attack survivor category too.
This calls for a check into the accessibility of the DU colleges’ campuses. In an interview with the Times of India, Officer on special duty of DU’s equal opportunity cell (EOC), Bipin Tiwari, said: “We have given a fee waiver to PwD students and charge a nominal fee for certain items. Over the years, DU colleges have become disabled-friendly with improved infrastructure. This has made DU a viable option for such students.”
While colleges like Kirori Mal College, Jesus and Mary College, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee College and Miranda House have introduced braille, as well as QR code, enabled signs and boards across the campuses, that would enable the visually impaired to find their way with ease, this move remains to be implemented by other institutions of the varsity. In a first, Zakir Hussain College has also made a copy of their prospectus available in braille, which can be accessed by as many as 582 visually impaired students seeking admission to University this year.
According to the EOC guidelines, students with physical disabilities residing in different hostels or halls of the university are exempt from paying all fees and charges, except the refundable caution and mess fees. Like every year, the cell established in 2008, has sent instructions to colleges, asking them to ensure that a desktop/laptop with assistive and screen reading software, connected to a printer, is made available to assist such students. Also, the admission process of students with disabilities must be conducted on the ground floor only.
On the one hand, it is heartening to see the constant efforts of NSS units, the EOC and Equity cells of colleges making strides towards making accessible learning spaces for all but on the other hand, it is crucial that our institutions continue to use technology, volunteers, sensitivity training and counselling to improve the lives of all of its students. Awareness, sensitivity and willingness to talk about the problems that students with disabilities face are also essential to ensure that they get the resources they deserve. Be it tactile paths, wheelchair ramps with railings or braille boards – these infrastructural changes are the least that can be done to empower the specially-abled.
Image credits: Times of India