Pratyush Nalam, 17, landed in Mumbai from Vishakapatnam on Thursday and can hardly wait to begin his classes at the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay (IIT-B).
Suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disorder, Nalam moves around in a wheelchair and needs a full-time attendant.
The disease is characterised by degeneration of motor neurons results in progressive muscular atrophy (wasting away) and weakness.
But Nalam, who has always been at the top of his class, has not let the disease hamper his excitement. He is looking forward to taking part at the institute's extracurricular activities. "Apart from the computer science programmme, I chose IIT-B for its extracurricular activities. I am waiting to take part in the Techfest and other festivals at the institute," he told the Hindustan Times.
IIT-B already has a student using a wheelchair staying at the hostel since last year, but with Nalam the institute has to, for the first time, accommodate someone who would need a full-time attendant. "We got an electric wheelchair for the previous physically disabled (PD) student, but Pratyush needs more assistance," said Prakash Gopalan, dean of student affairs at IIT-B.
"Pratyush is a very confident child and I'm sure he will manage to do well," said his mother, Srilakshmi. But the institute's hostel rooms do not have attached bathrooms and will make it difficult for Nalam to live on campus.
"While our new lecture buildings are disabled-friendly and all our future buildings are also being planned in on similar lines. We are trying to make provisions in the old buildings too," said Gopalan.
With a 3% quota for PD candidates in all categories (general, SC, ST and OBC), all the 15 IITs are moving towards universal accessibility. The Persons with Disabilities Act that provided for the reservation came into force in 1995.