On World Disability Day, teachers have asked the Maharashtra state board to provide SSC and HSC question papers in Braille for deaf-blind students — those who are both visually and hearing impaired. They have also asked the board to permit such students to write their answers in Braille. This is the first time such a student will appear for the SSC exam.
Though there are several concessions for students who are either visually or hearing impaired; as of now, there are none for students having both impairments. Hence, the Helen Keller Institute in Byculla and Navi Mumbai has written to the state board demanding additional concessions for these students.
Devyani Hadkar, teacher, Helen Keller Institute, said the problem came to light this year when the student tried to register for the exam. The exam form did not have a category for deaf-blind students, she said.
“In the disabilities section, deafness and blindness are listed separately. We had to specially approach the state board to sign up our student,” said Hadkar.
Usually, hearing or visually impaired students have a writer or interpreter, who aids them during the exam. However, since students with both impairments can neither hear nor see, they are unable to use an interpreter to read the question paper.
If the question paper is provided in Braille, the students will be able to read it without help. “Our students are fluent in Braille,” said Hadkar.
However, board authorities said they neither have facilities to print question papers in Braille, nor teachers who can evaluate papers in that script.
“ We have never had a deaf-blind student taking the exam before, so we were unaware of these problems,” said Siddheshwar Chandekar, secretary of the board, Mumbai division.
The board had allowed the institute’s teachers to be present while the student wrote the exam. However, the institute refused the offer, saying it was unethical to do so. “If our teachers act as writers for the student, it amounts to partiality and will be unfair to other students,” said Hadkar.
Hadkar said students from the institute usually appear for the exam through the National Institute Open Schooling (NIOS). “The NIOS sends us the question paper minutes before the exam and we print and distribute it among students in the presence of officials,” said Hadkar.