By Atul Mishra
In March 2012, a girl student with loco-motor disability was hit by a speeding bike while crossing the road near the central library in North Campus, Delhi University (DU). It undoubtedly became news but any tangible solution was never reached.
Recently enrolled in MA program at DU’s Faculty of Arts, Rachit Raj told NewsGram: “The English Department is on the first floor and every day a few students carry me and my wheelchair upstairs to the classroom which is very risky. I have complained to the Head of the English Department and went to the VC office as well many a times. Nobody listens and does anything.”
Now that the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) elections are less than a fortnight away, the infamous conditions of disabled students in DU should be unveiled. During the campaigns, party people talk profoundly about the plight of specially-abled students and their agendas to sort these blemishes out. But are things really sorted?
No matter what the officials, from dean to students’ union leaders, say, the challenged students are always in jeopardy. Be it academics or transportation they always face problems every day. As per DU record, there are around 1200 students with disabilities enrolled in the university under various programs. However, accessibility for students with disabilities still remains a major problem.
DU’s Equal Opportunity Cell (EOC) had prepared a detailed access audit report in 2007 of the availability of facilities for differently-abled students in all colleges and had even written to each of them in 2009 asking them to do the needful. Only 25 per cent of the colleges have implemented these norms so far. These include LSR, SRCC, Gargi College, Khalsa College, and Kamala Nehru College, among others.
Even after so many complaints, protests and audit reports, physically challenged students of more than 60 colleges of DU have to go through many problems.
A visually challenged student of Ramjas college, Ravi Gupta said, “Often I have to ask someone to read out the notice board for me. The officials in the administration always say they that will soon install Braille notice boards but the situation seems hopeless.”
The visually impaired students say department libraries are of no use to them. They do not have soft copies of books and scanners are only available at EOC.
“Accessing those scanners is not possible considering even undergraduate students go there. And students from off-campus colleges will not come all the way to North Campus to use EOC scanners,” says visually impaired Jignesh Kumar.
Many grievances like these have surfaced. The inability of the visually-impaired to borrow books from libraries as they are not suitably equipped, apathy of university’s Equal Opportunity Cell (EOC), which is mandated to try and create a level playing field for students such as these, and a general feeling that there’s no one to take care of the special needs. In more than half of the colleges of DU, students on wheel chairs have no ramps built for them, visually challenged do not have Braille notice boards, toilets are not differently-abled-friendly.
Under the University’s norms, all visually impaired students are to be provided with electronic reading devices by their respective colleges. The reality is that only a handful is provided to them. Most of them are subjected to procrastination by the staff.
No doubt, DU has been neglectful in full laxity in implementation of various programs in the past. Insufficient funds and communication gap between students and officials act as major impediments in DU’s progress. The audit reports and EOC are just utopian fantasies and not realities.