Make Campuses Accessible for Students with disabilities: UGC

Asia-Pacific, November 11 2014

BHUBANESWAR, INDIA: All the State Government-run universities getting General Development Assistance (GDA) from University Grants Commission (UGC), will now have to earmark one lakh from the funds to make the campuses accessible for students with disabilities. A directive in this regard was issued by UGC recently.

Grants under GDA are provided as block grant to eligible educational institutions with the flexibility to incur expenditure as per the needs of colleges and universities. It covers expenditure for the development of undergraduate and postgraduate education besides construction of buildings. Despite provision of financial aid, most institutions do not provide barrier free educational facilities.

The Department of Higher Education (DHE) has time and again given directions for accessible libraries, laboratories and accessible study material, audio-visual aids and computers with JAWS (Job Access with Speech) software for students with vision disabilities, which reads out text on the computer screen, but rarely any of the orders have been implemented. Odisha has eight Government-run universities, but none of them is completely accessible.

Except for Ravenshaw and Utkal University, none of the Government-run universities have taken any major steps to make their campuses accessible. Ravenshaw which has already constructed ramps, accessible toilets and elevators, will soon get a Braille printing press on its campus to address the problem of shortage of textbooks for students with disabilities. As part of its ongoing measures for an accessible campus, it has installed Dux Berry, the latest software that can convert written text into audio format, at the library at a cost of `four lakh.

Taking the shortcomings into consideration, the UGC asked the universities to earmark funds from the GDA every year to make their premises accessible in a phased manner.

It has also been proposed to establish Department of Disability Studies at Central University at Koraput and one of the eight State universities. It will address all issues related to persons with disabilities, especially human rights, rehabilitation and education.

The UGC has also asked universities to file status reports on the disabled friendliness of their campuses within a fortnight. After the Bombay High Court verdict in the case of a student with disabilities recently, the UGC wrote to universities on the subject this week.

Source: New Indian Express

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