Disability rights groups say disability studies university promotes segregation
Disability rights groups have sought withdrawal of a government proposal to set up a university for disability studies and rehabilitation sciences, saying it will take them backwards by promoting exclusion and segregation instead of inclusion.
Different disability rights groups including National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People and National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled have written to Shakuntala D Gamlin, secretary of Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, opposing the move.
In December 2020, the government had proposed to set up a "first of its kind" university covering the entire gamut of disability studies and rehabilitation sciences in an accessible environment.
In a public notice issued on December 24, 2020, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, had invited comments from stakeholders on a draft bill to set up the university.
"At the outset, we would like to highlight that while the proposed University is one of its kind, it takes the disability sector backwards by promoting exclusion/ segregation rather than inclusion," the letter said.
"It goes against the progressive nature of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016 as also the concept of inclusion advocated by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020," it said.
"Much emphasis needs to be given on setting up centres/departments of disability studies in existing universities and higher education institutions on the lines of cross-disability and cross-gender approaches," it added.
The rights groups said the focus needs to be laid on increasing the number of trained human resources by offering courses which are in line with that of NIMHANS/IISC/IITs including doctoral degrees.
These also need to have on-line alternatives for delivery of courses based on Universal Design of Learning and Reasonable Accommodation as per the RPWD Act, NEP 2020, and Government of India and international guidelines for digital platforms, they said.
"Disability studies should be made part of the mainstream academic endeavours which the proposed university through its exclusionary approach fails to do," the letter said.
It said the draft bill lacks clarity on the actual disability studies by focusing more on the governance aspect of it and also deviates from the norms and practices of the higher education system.
"We are also not in agreement with the proposal for running the university in a 'self-sustaining' model. To conclude, we would request to kindly withdraw the said Draft Bill," it said.
The proposed university will be a unique multidisciplinary academic institution conducting research, programmes and courses from the bachelor's level onwards to cater to various disciplines covering the entire gamut of disability studies and rehabilitation sciences in an accessible environment, the DEPwD had said.