The figures are dismal. Just 8,449 disabled students (0.5%) out of 15,21,438 students, are enrolled in more than 150 top Indian colleges, a survey on Status of Disability in Higher Education has revealed. About 250 institutes were contacted by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People (NCPEDP), which conducted the survey, but those who did not respond “obviously had something to hide,” says Javed Abidi, honorary director, NCPEDP.
“We didn’t leave any stone unturned, but most of the ones who didn’t respond were private educational institutions,” Abidi adds. The law (Disability Act) was passed in 1995, guaranteeing 3% reservation in higher education. Two decades later, the actual reality is extremely dismal. Urging the government, HRD ministry, UGC and AICTE “to look within and introspect,” Abidi says, “Lack of transport, lack of accessibility on college premises and university campuses, lack of technology and assistive devices for the blind, lack of sign language for the deaf, and lack of scholarships and loans are the five key reasons for this failure.”
On the obvious gender gap, with 74.08% male disabled students as against 22.70% females, he says “The bitter truth is, women and girls are discriminated in India in any case. For girls with disability, that stigma, that level of discrimination is not just doubled but increases multifold.”
When asked what institutes need to do to enrol more disabled students, Abidi retorts, “Nobody is doing us a favour! Disabled people are citizens of this country too.
All we are demanding are our rights! If disabled people, especially the youth, are mainstreamed, if they have true access to higher education, more and more such people would get jobs and become tax payers.”