By Shailaja Neelakantan/NEW DELHI
From the Chronicle of Higher Education - Issue cover-dated October 15, 2004
Indian higher-education institutions show scant regard for the educational rights of India's disabled, according to a recent survey of universities across the country by the National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.
Of 322 universities that were sent the research questionnaire, only 119 responded, and the survey found that only 0.1 percent of students enrolled at those universities had disabilities.
All higher-education institutions that receive financial aid from the government are supposed to reserve at least 3 percent of their seats for people with disabilities. The survey found that 24 universities were clearly violating this rule, while 7 categorically stated that they did not admit students with disabilities. All the universities surveyed receive government support.
According to Javed Abidi, founder of the center, there are approximately 24 million disabled young people in India.
"Of the total youth in India, 6 percent have access to higher education, which means 1.44 million disabled youth should also have access to higher education, but our survey found that only 1,635 disabled students were enrolled in the colleges we surveyed, which is way off the national average," Mr. Abidi said.
He added that it was not enough to have seats reserved for students with disabilities. "What's the point in having a quota if you don't have the facilities?" he asked. "I have found that even when disabled students do get admitted to universities, many drop out after a few months because it is just too difficult and inconvenient for them." Most universities are unaware of or decide not to take advantage of a government program that gives universities grants to make campuses accessible and to provide special equipment for disabled people, he added.
The survey found that only 18 universities reported that they provided appropriate desks and chairs for students with disabilities, 11 provided wheelchairs, 9 provided access to tricycles, 16 had special computer software, and 10 provided access to books in Braille.