Disabled final year students of Delhi University petition UGC to call off exams
The abrupt lockdown has affected students across India, disabled students especially. In these circumstances the Delhi University’s decision to conduct online exams for final year students has caused huge dismay and stress. Sambhavna, a body that speaks for disabled teachers and students, has petitioned the University Grants Commission to call off the exams.
Poor Internet connectivity, lack of accessible reading materials and frequent power cuts. Just some of the issues Ranu Maini, a final year master’s student of history at Ramjas College, Delhi University (DU), is battling with in the run up to her final year exams.
Like many other graduate and postgraduate students of DU, Ranu was home for a week-long midterm break when the lockdown was suddenly declared.
“I have not been able to prepare as well as I could have”, says Ranu, who is visually impaired. “Internet connectivity is poor, so I have missed out on many online classes. Fortunately, I took most my study material home, but I don’t feel as confident. I hope the DU will not conduct the final year exams as scheduled”.
Open book exam format cause for concern
Many final year graduate and postgraduate students with disabilities share her worries, especially because the exams are being held online in open book format. This means questions will be emailed to students, who will answer them in written form and re upload the answers.
“Where will students get scribes from at a time like this especially given the social distancing concerns”, asks Sanchit Katiyar, a visually impaired Ph.D. student, who has been following the issues closely.
Petition to UGC lists challenges for PwD
In a petition to the University Grants Commission (UGC), Sambhavna, a body that speaks for disabled teachers and students at DU, has asked for a rethink on the move. An earlier plea to the DU Vice Chancellor on the same issue went unheard.
Among the issues raised in the petition are:
- Lack of Reading materials – Many disabled students don’t have adequate reading materials with them to prepare for the exams. This is worse for print disabled as no effort has been made to provide materials in accessible format.
- Lack of necessary devices – Many disabled students are from poor economic backgrounds and cannot afford assistive devices.
- Challenges of online classes – Affordability of devices apart, accessibility of online platforms has been a major issue.
- Problems in online exams – Challenges in organising scribes/writers being faced by many disabled students. There will also be issues of social distancing.
The DU should hold exams offline for them after the lockdown so that they can meet the specific requirements of different institutions of higher education around the world while applying for academic and professional courses. The University can conduct classes in smaller batches for final semester students for one or two weeks before the exams. In the worst-case scenario of no classroom teaching and examination..the DU may issue equivalence certificate. – Dr Nikhil Jain, Sambhavna
The DU has granted some accommodations to disabled students like giving them an extra two hours to answer the papers. Atman Khemka, a final year graduate student who is visually impaired has made his peace with this. “Since the DU has said we can type our answers I have the time to do it on my own and will take the exam if needed”.
However, there are thousands of other students with disabilities for whom this is not an option. Under these circumstances, the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) says there is a need to look at alternatives. In a statement it has suggested that like in the case of first- and second-year students, the UGC must promote final year students based on their performance in the last semester.
- Accessibility of online classes a major issue for disabled students during lockdown, DEPwD intervenes
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