Kerala schools & colleges still remains inaccessible, points out disabled students & activists
Disabled students across India are struggling to attend schools and colleges due to lack of accessibility. The situation is not any different in Kerala, a state that recently won the central government’s best state award for empowering people with disabilities. The laws for accessible campuses have not yet been implemented.
For 20 year old Niharika* (name changed) attending schools or colleges in her hometown Kochi was never easy. Being a wheelchair user, she has had her fair share of struggles. For thousands of students with disabilities across Kerala, education still largely remains inaccessible due to campuses and education system not being disabled-friendly. Over the years, NGO’s and disability rights groups have pointed out the importance of accessible schools and colleges for disabled people to become part of mainstream society. Till date, nothing substantial has been done.Kerala recently won the central government’s best state award for empowering people with disabilities.
Laws that are never implemented
India has signed the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). It says that disabled citizens across the country must be provided facilities to be brought to the mainstream. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act introduced in 2016 also highlights the same. In 2014, the Supreme Court of India passed a judgement to make all educational institutions disabled friendly. But campuses in most parts of the country remains inaccessible. Kerala is known for its many policies and schemes for welfare of people from the disabled community. But disabled students are struggling to get basic education.
Biju Paul, who is a wheelchair user, is a student of the Government Law College in Thrissur which remains inaccessible.
Why is the government delaying in implementing laws? These are not favours done to us. We deserve good and quality education. Only when a disabled person is educated can they enter mainstream society. The Kerala government had introduced the barrier-free tourism projects to make all tourism places in the state accessible. We welcome the move. But why is nothing done to make all educational institutions accessible?- Biju Paul.
The many hurdles
Most disabled students struggle to even get accessible transport facilities to attend schools and colleges. Since government transport is still not accessible, they have to look out for options on their own. Hiring a car or auto rickshaw can be expensive,
Disabled students point out that apart from campuses being inaccessible, study materials are also not disabled friendly. For instance, a visually impaired student has to struggle to get materials. Thanks to technology, things are much easier now. Sign Language Interpreters can make classes easier for deaf students. But all those facilities are not available in any educational institutions in Kerala. Children with developmental disabilities like autism or Down syndrome are left out.
Seema Lal is the co-founder of TogetherWeCan, a parent support group from Kerala. “Inclusion is a word merely on paper in schools across India. The basic thing is attitudes of people. Schools are still performance driven. We still celebrate results of class 10 and 12 exams only. So education is seen primarily on measuring academic skills. Children who are good in other areas are left out. Inclusion starts at home where the families understand the needs. Then to active ongoing teacher training focussing on basic child development model, not a diagnostic one”, says Seema.
In order to make a real impact, officials from education institutions and the government must work together. Schools are the right places to begin inclusion at.
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