Accessibility August 22, 2020
Visually impaired candidates in Karnataka struggle for scribes, medical tests ahead of KPSC exam
Hundreds of visually impaired students in Karnataka are struggling to find scribes for the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) preliminary exam on 24 August. There are many other unreasonable conditions imposed by the KPSC, according to the National Federation of the Blind, Karnataka.
A record 800 visually impaired candidates have registered for the upcoming Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) preliminary exam on 24 August. This should be a moment of pride for the disabled community. Instead, it is clouded by the struggles of visually impaired candidates.
Veeresh M is among the candidates this year. “I live in Bengaluru and my exam centre is in Davangere”, says Veeresh, who is totally blind. “None of my friends are wiling to risk traveling five hours outside the city given the coronavirus threat”. His anxiety levels are naturally high. He started preparing for the exams two years ago and now with less than 48 hours to go, he is yet to find a scribe.
His friend Manjula M is caught in a similar bind. She lives in Chamrajnahar District and her exam centre is in Mysuru. “My friends are willing to take the risk but their parents are refusing to let them leave the city”.
Blatant disregard for central guidelines
It’s not just availability of scribes that’s the problem. There are many other conditions that are unfair and in complete violation of central guidelines like asking disabled students to undergo physical tests to certify to the level of disability before the exam.
The central guidelines state that the disability certificate issued by the competent medical authority must be accepted. Here in Karnataka visually impaired candidates were given just four days’ notice to go for a medical test between 10 to 13 August to prove their requirement for a scribe. There are just four hospitals in Karnataka designated for this test.- Gautam Agarwal, General Secretary, National Federation for Blind, Karnataka
Many visually impaired candidates have decided not to take the exam due to these conditions.
“Earlier they would ask for the physical test after the exam”, says Veeresh, who could not go as his designated testing centre was in Shimoga, outside Bengaluru. “If we don’t take the physical test before the exam, we will not be given disability benefits and have to compete with sighted people. This is so unfair”.
What is shocking is the total disregard of central guidelines for candidates with disabilities.
“The central govt has notified guidelines for scribes, lab assistants, regarding extra time, scribes, etc”, says Agarwal, “But KPSC is following its own guidelines. They were giving just 10 minutes extra time per hour to disabled candidates when the MSJE guidelines stipulate 20 minus for every hour”.
Explain lack of compliance, says court
Following the intervention of the Karnataka High Court, disabled candidates will now be given 20 minutes per hour extra time.
“This was not the only violation”, points out Agarwal. “KPSC had not made any arrangements for providing scribes and had asked students to come with their own scribes for the prelim exams. They said they would provide scribes only for the main exam whereas the Centre makes no difference in the exam levels”.
The High Court has also instructed the KPSC to form a panel of scribes and give candidates the option of bringing their own scribes or choose one from the panel. The KPSC will also have to explain why central guidelines have not been complied with.
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