Accessibility November 4, 2020
Kerala Social Justice Department launches accessibility probe after disabled Ph.D. student’s complaint
Following Meera Menon’s persisted letters of complaint highlighting the lack of accessible toilets at her exam centre in IGNOU Kochi, the Kerala Social Justice Department has sought a report on the accessibility of disabled-friendly toilets at the centre.
Weeks after she wrote several letters of complaint to senior state-level authorities, Meera U Menon has been heard.
Meera, a disabled student pursuing a Ph.D. had to sit for a three-hour exam soaked in her urine as there was no accessible toilet at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)’s Kochi Regional Centre.
After her letter to IGNOU was met with indifference, Meera wrote to higher level authorities in the state.
In response, Biju Prabhakar, Secretary, Kerala Social Justice Department, has asked for immediate action. In a mail Mr Prabhakar said a district officer should be sent to the centre urgently and that a report be sent on the directions to be issued to IGNOU Kochi.
IGNOU Kochi shows apathy
Meera has Spina bifida, a condition that affects her spinal cord and makes it difficult for her to control her urine.
Before my exam I wanted to use the toilet. The one on my floor had only an Indian style commode. Being a disabled person, it is very hard for me to use the same. I have less urine control but was forced to use the Indian toilet. This made my pants wet and I had to sit for the three-hour exam like that. – Meera U Menon, Ph.D student
Meera later found that the building had a disabled-friendly toilet, which was locked. The staff there had no clue where the key was.
In her initial response, IGNOU Kochi Regional Director Dr J Dorothy claimed Meera never mentioned the need for help in her exam application form. She also said the centre was disabled-friendly. In her email to Meera, Dr Dorothy said, ”No representation from you, as a learner, was received for special assistance and additional facilities to write the examination, implying the preference to write with other examinees. The social inclusiveness of Regional Centre, Cochin is evident from allowing the differently-abled learner to write with other examinees as per her preference in this case”.
However, the sample examination application form only asked if disabled students need help while writing the exam and nothing else.
Hopefully with Mr Prabhakar’s intervention, justice will finally be done and no person with disability will have to undergo a similar ordeal.
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