Accessibility November 17, 2020
PH.D student’s ordeal over inaccessible toilet is heard, IGNOU Kochi directed to take steps
The Kerala Social Justice Department has responded to Ph.D. student Meera Menon’s complaints about inaccessible toilet at the Indira Gandhi National Open University Kochi’s centre.
Meera Menon’s persistence has paid off. The Kerala Social justice Department has directed the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)’s Kochi centre to ensure that the premises are made disabled-friendly by February 2021.
On 15 October, Meera, a PH.D student researching representation of disability in cinema underwent a traumatic ordeal at the IGNOU Kochi centre while taking an exam.
Meera has Spina bifida
Meera has Spina Bifida, also known as split spine, a condition that gives her limited control over toilet motions. “Before my exam I wanted to use the toilet, but my exam hall was on the second floor which had an Indian style commode”. The only other accessible toilet on the ground floor was locked. She had no choice but to use the Indian style commode. “My pants got wet and I had to sit for the three-hour exam, soaked in my urine”, she says.
Meera wrote letters to IGNOU Kochi. After a long silence, she finally got an insensitive response from J.S Dorothy, Regional Director, IGNOU Kochi.
Meera did not give up and approached higher level authorities in the state. The Kerala Social Justice Department ordered an on-the-spot check at IGNOU Kochi and the survey validated every complaint of Meera’s.
Inspection confirms Meera’s complaints
“We found no disabled friendly toilets on the second floor where Meera’s exam was held”, said John Joshy District Welfare Officer, Ernakulam in an interview to Newz Hook. “Disabled students are directed to go to another building to use an accessible toilet. Further, this toilet is being used by teachers and students with disabilities are suffering because of this”.
Government authorities have directed IGNOU Kochi to ensure that western style disabled friendly toilets are built on every floor and that the premises be made disabled-friendly overall. It also says that students with disabilities must be assigned exam halls that are on the ground floor. All this must be done by February 2021 when the next exam is scheduled.
I am happy about the action taken and hopeful that this will come into effect. I am waiting to see that these changes are implemented in OGNOU Kochi and other universities as well. This will encourage other people to speak up for their rights. – Meera Menon, Ph.D. candidate
Meera’s victory is being savoured by others who supported her campaign.
“She did not give up not give up despite the insensitive replies she got from IGNOU”, says Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetherWeCan, a parent support group in Kerala. “It is however very disappointing and frustrating that in 2020 we are still here asking for basic facilities such as toilets”.
TogetherWeCan plans to file an RTI to find out what the minimum mandated access facilities in every public building are and the measures to be taken in the event of a violation.
- Ph.D student undergoes embarrassing ordeal due to lack of accessible toilet at IGNOU Kochi exam centre
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