New Delhi: To encourage the enrolment and retainment of students with disabilities, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is planning to develop model “disability-friendly” technical institutes across India — at least one in each state.
The initiative by the AICTE, a national-level body that regulates technical education in India, will involve making infrastructural and administrative changes to existing institutes.
The council floated a tender Tuesday to help with an “accessibility audit” aimed at identifying gaps in facilities for students with disabilities. It has already identified some institutes.
Speaking to ThePrint, AICTE member-secretary Rajive Kumar said that the council had last year formed an expert committee to suggest ways to improve the enrolment of students with disabilities.
“We had received feedback that many students are not able to join technical institutions because they do not support education for people with disabilities and we wanted to change that,” Kumar said.
“A committee formed to look into the issue advised that we should create model institutions — at least one in each state — which are disability-friendly and give students a supportive environment to continue their studies,” he added.
Kumar said that the committee recommended that such institutes should be developed in each state “so that students from remote areas who cannot go out of their state to study can benefit from them”.
The council will provide funds to the institutes to help develop them into “models” for disability-accessibility and it is hoped this will “inspire” other educational establishments to follow suit.
Key features of ‘model’ institutes
The proposed model institutions will contain infrastructure that supports students with visual, mobility, and other disabilities.
They will be equipped with ramps, mobility devices, computers with screen-reading software, low-vision aids, and so on. Counselling facilities and information on scholarships for students with disabilities will also be provided.
According to the tender released by the AICTE for an “accessibility audit”, the aim is to make modifications or add “special provisions” in existing institutions so as to create a “supportive atmosphere” for students with disabilities and “empower them to complete their studies”.
It adds that the provisions should “cover physical accessibility of academic institutions, improvement of teaching-learning process, support systems once admitted, and other linkages etc”.
The areas to be covered by the audit include administrative and circulation spaces, building infrastructure, classrooms, libraries, workshops, laboratories, cafeterias, hostels, and sports facilities. In addition, the institute’s printed and digital content (such as in-web pages and apps) will also be assessed for accessibility.
Earlier this month, the AICTE asked institutions to develop educational content for students with visual impairments.
“Students with visual impairments require one or more specialised formats including braille, large print, audio and/or digital to pursue their study,” the circular sent on 16 June read.
“In order to facilitate the education of differently abled students in general and visually impaired students in particular, all technical institutions are requested to prepare the resource material such as audio books and other references of curriculum for visually impaired students and make them available,” it added.
Existing ‘disability-friendly’ campuses
Earlier this year, the University Grants Commission (UGC), a statutory body that oversees standards of higher education in India, issued draft guidelines to make colleges more accessible and inclusive.
Currently, only a few colleges in the country may be considered disability-friendly. These include Delhi University’s Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences. It has a barrier-free campus, ramps, and washrooms that are accessible for people with disabilities (PwD). According to its website, it also provides a fee waiver for students admitted under the PwD category.
Arts Faculty in Delhi University is also a disability-friendly campus with ramps and washroom facilities suited for PwD. The Equal Opportunities Cell in the university helps students with scholarships and other facilities.
Panjab University and Guru Nanak Dev University in Punjab are also equipped with ramps, wheelchair facilities, and washrooms suitable for PwD.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)