Accessibility September 18, 2020
Delhi student Srishti Pandey’s account of inaccessible exam centres resonates across India
Srishti Pandey, a 21-year-old wheelchair user, attended her NTA exams last week. This youngster who hails from Delhi recalls the horrors that she had to face at both her exam centers that were inaccessible for wheelchair users. Exams amidst a pandemic is already stressful. Inaccessibility clearly adds to it.
Taking an exam is stressful enough. Now imagine being a wheelchair user and having to take an exam at an inaccessible centre during the pandemic. 21-year-old Srishti Pandey experienced exactly that while taking the National Testing Agency (NTA) exams.
Both the centres allotted to Srishti were inaccessible. This is even after she gave prior notice of her needs. Srishti’s account of her troubles has gone viral and many other disabled students say they went through the same issues.
Inaccessible despite prior notice
Srishti was appearing for her post-graduate exams in Psychology and Applied Psychology. Her exam dates were on 7 and 10 September.
“I had uploaded my disability certificate. So the authorities did have information that I am a person with disability. I really thought they would do something about making the exam centre accessible. Despite that the centre was inaccessible”, she says.
Srishti had to be carried up to the centre by the staff present. They were masked and gloves but Srishti felt uncomfortable and scared. “We are amidst a pandemic. While they were wearing masks, the staff members held my wheelchair, so the risk of infection was high given the difficulty of social distancing. No safety precautions were in place”, she adds.
Sristhi’s father was not allowed to accompany her to the premises either. “If he was there, I would have been more comfortable instead of random people lifting me”, she says.
This experience affected her exam performance too. “Throughout the while, I was angry, frustrated and mad. How could they do this?”
Srishti did not take the matter up immediately as she was busy with the exams. But she is determined to ensure that this injustice is not repeated. “Being a person with disability, my immunity is very low and I am prone to the virus. I’am really anxious now”, says a worried Sristhi.
Making the RPWD Act a reality
Despite the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 mandating accessibility of all public places, accounts like Srishti’s show how distant we are from making it a reality.
Biju Paul, a law student from Kerala asks, “Why the delay in implementing the law? These are not favours done to us. We deserve quality education. Only when a disabled person is educated can they enter mainstream society. Why is nothing done to make all educational institutions accessible?”.
Over time, disability rights activists and advocates have raised their voices over this, but nothing positive has been done from the government’s side.
With exams re-starting in most parts of India and schools set to begin soon, the government must take steps to make places accessible so that people with disabilities do not undergo more stress during the pandemic.
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