Council Members Note for the month of March 2022

The University Grants Commission (UGC) very recently released a draft of Comprehensive Accessibility Guidelines and Standards for Higher Education Institutions and Universities to ensure persons with disabilities (PwD) have easy access to higher education. In addition to this, the Government of India launched the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) to ensure the equal participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all activities. Initiatives such as extending a robust roadmap to inclusive education are commendable and a step in the right direction. The guidelines cover the nuances of accessibility measures while keeping abreast with the role of inclusive technology in education and importantly focused on the range of needs and requirements of students with different types of disability. Other aspects like governance and monitoring of measures by HEIs, timeline, financial implications and accountability as well as implementation mechanisms are also part of the draft.

Despite all its positives, other factors like the readiness of faculty and administration, geographical, cultural and socio-economic variations to the landscape of HEIs in the country, peer, family and societal support must also be considered. Many past initiatives such as the guidelines for persons with disabilities scheme in universities, the guidelines for conducting examinations for persons with benchmark disabilities and guidelines for the equal opportunity centres in colleges are in place. However, the guideline must contain a strict timeline for implementation and must specify the repercussions in case of non-compliance. Therefore, It must be ensured that the guideline should not remain another policy in papers. The UGC has to take the first step and actively work towards unifying its efforts on inclusion and committed implementation roadmap.

Dr Jayashri S Patil
Honorary Council Member, IEF