Indian educational institutions aren’t disabled-friendly

Despite having so many higher educational institutions across the country, not even one per cent of Indian educational institutions is user-friendly for disabled persons, participants at the National Convention of Youth with Disabilities (NCYD) have observed on Monday.

“Fifty per cent of persons with disabilities are under 25 years of age in keeping with India’s demographic dividend, yet none of the universities are truly accessible,” Javed Abidi, Director at the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), said.

“A ramp here or a disabled-friendly toilet there doesn’t qualify the college or university as accessible,” he said, adding, “We still have a very, very long road ahead of us in order for our educational institutions to become genuinely accessible and disabled friendly.”

“We know that despite the quota given by the government, students with disabilities are not able to make it to colleges and universities across the country. So the students gathered at NCYD are a courageous and resilient lot. Thanks to Accenture, these bright minds felt that they had a supportive ecosystem, a place where they felt welcome,” he added.

There are 789 universities, 37,204 colleges and 11,443 stand-alone institutions in India, says a statistics report from the University Grants Commission (UGC) of India website.

“Yet, not more than one per cent of our educational institutions are disabled-friendly,” other participants at the event said.

“Moreover, not even one per cent of the seats in higher educational institutions are currently occupied by disabled people,” they observed.

Few students who make it to the higher education institutions, face problems like accommodation, travelling which become too expensive for them, they said.

Since 1995, the government has made it mandatory for all government educational institutions and other educational institutions receiving aid from the government to reserve three per cent seats for persons with disability.

This reservation was increased to four per cent in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016.

However, the quota on paper is of no use if the entire educational system remains hostile to students with disabilities, the participants said.

A total of 100 persons with disabilities, including 65 students attended the conference from top notch institutes such as IIT (Kharagpur, Hyderabad, Madras, Roorkee, Guwahati, Delhi); IIM (Bengaluru, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Indore, Ranchi), TISS, NIFT New Delhi, School of Planning & Architecture; Symbiosis Law College Pune, University of Punjab, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University and Maulana Azad Medical College.

Youth icons in the disability sector like Ummul Kher, Ankit Jindal, Member, National Committee of Rights of Persons with Disability (NCRPD), Sachin Singh, Instructor, Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre, and Sagar Baheti, the first visually impaired Indian runner to complete historic Boston Marathon spoke at the Convention.

Buddy4Study, India’s largest scholarship platform offers a number scholarships related to disabilities such as Scholarship For Top Class Education For Students With Disability 2017-18, Central Sector Scholarship Schemes for Students With Disabilities 2017 and National Fellowship for Persons with Disabilities 2016-17.

Students with disabilities looking for scholarships can log on to Buddy4Study and apply for the same on the portal.