Kerala government are torchbearers when it comes to accessibility in education
In 2017, participants of the event National Convention of Youth with Disabilities (NCYD) identified that not even one percent of educational institutions are disabled friendly or accessible. Now, in 2019, the situation is not any different in most educational campuses across India. Disabled students still struggle to get special quotas and scholarships.
The government of Kerala, however, has always been progressive when it comes to providing accessibility features in colleges.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 clearly states that all buildings must be made accessible for people with disabilities. So does the Accessible India Campaign. The RPWD Act, 2016 also highlights the importance of providing equal rights to disabled students in campuses. Colleges in Kerala are abiding by the law to a large extent when compared to their counterparts.
Biju Paul is a wheelchair user from Thrissur in Kerala. Paul is currently pursuing his post-graduation in Malayalam from the Kerala Varma College, one of the most renowned colleges in the state. Paul became paralysed after a road accident when he was 23 years old. At the age of 42, he decided to pursue his studies.
I could not complete my education after my accident because of mobility issues. I was also worried about many other factors like how my classmates and teachers would view me because of my disability, will my disability affect others and I was also worried about transport difficulties to get to college. But once I joined this college, I realised that not everyone has the same attitudes towards disabilities. I have a great support system in college. My classroom was in the third floor, and it has been changed to the first floor for me. They introduced wheelchair ramps and exclusive parking spaces for me. -Biju Paul, Student
Paul points out that one of the biggest challenges faced by disabled people is accessing transport facilities.
"The government does not provide any facilities for disabled people. Even in public transport, there are hardly any exclusive features for a disabled person. Some people have their own vehicles. But people like me cannot afford it. I drive my own auto with a hand brake to get to college. But all this is worth it when you complete your course and get a certificate. I feel the government must do something about this, says Paul.
Subaida PM is a visually impaired person who recently completed her masters in English from a college in Wayanad. She said she received a lot of support "The best thing about my college is that my friends and teachers were very supportive. I did not have any difficulties in even finding a scribe. I think I'am quite lucky to get this kind of support.
Not everyone is as lucky. Lack of disabled-friendly washrooms and even inaccessible buildings can become a nightmare for disabled students. Disabled students point out that providing exclusive scholarships and quotas alone won't really help them. Accessible buildings where students can comfortably move around is important. For that, NGOs, medical officers and government officials must join hands and work on what is best for students with all kinds of disabilities.