Completing a bachelor’s degree with psychology as a single major was a dream come true for 21-year-old Kriti Banga, and a first for Mumbai university. Banga has been vision-impaired since birth.
This year, the University of Mumbai started allowing vision-impaired students to opt for a Psychology major (all six papers), with help from the Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC), Dhobi Talao.
Banga not only became the first person to clear the exams, she also topped Swami Vivekananda College, Chembur, with 75.5% in the final year.
For years, a psychology major was out of bounds for many like her, because its practical examinations involved a great deal of visual skills and co-ordination. Students would opt for a sociology-psychology double major, which does not have a practical paper, instead.
However, in 2009, after receiving an application from the XRCVC to consider forming inclusive rules for conducting practical examinations for completely vision-impaired students, the board of studies, department of psychology at the university decided to create a study and exam model for such students.
"A student from our institute wanted to pursue a psychology major, which prompted us to take up the matter with the university. However, it got delayed. But now, it has benefited Kriti, making us all very proud," said Neha Trivedi, project consultant, XRCVC.
"When I contacted XRCVC, they agreed to guide me. As soon as a new practical was announced in college, I would go to the centre where we discussed ways to make the experiments accessible for me," said Banga. "I performed each experiment with a helper assigned to me from college." The resource centre provided material and helped her write journals in Braille.
"Psychology practicals require a lot of sight skills and there is no margin for error. Apart from one practical exam, which required a lot of vision-orientated work, Kriti aced every other test," said professor Sam Taraporevala, director, XRCVC.
"I had immense support from my mother and brother, who helped me make the Braille cards and fill up my journals. It was a complete team effort, without which I could not have passed," she said. The Deonar resident wants to pursue a career as a radio jockey and is looking for a course where she can learn the skills.