At Delhi University, every college has seats reserved for the students with physical disabilities under various courses. Lady Shri Ram College for Women, which is one of the top colleges under Delhi University, also has students with disabilities in different courses. I talked to some of the students from the college to have a better understanding regarding their life at the college campus as well as at the hostel.
While making a choice for their college, the student has to keep in mind several factors such as infrastructural accessibility, an atmosphere of inclusivity, washrooms etc. Shivangi Anil, a student living with Cerebral Palsy, a condition which has an affect over one’s motor abilities and leads to problems in coordination between one’s muscles, shared her positive experience at LSR. She said, “Initially, it took me time to explain to the college authorities that even though I have cerebral palsy, I will not be using a wheelchair. The college did understand my point of view and went ahead to change the entire timetable so that all my classes could be situated in the nearby area which made my first year become more comfortable as I did not have to walk much in order to attend my classes. This was done within a period of two to three weeks, proving that the college was indeed welcome to changes which can make life of a student more convenient.”
Even her experience with the National Service Scheme chapter of LSR, was quite good as the heads under whom she worked were adjusting and let her complete her NGO hours in a way which suited her the best. According to Shivangi, had the college not been so open to changes and adjustments and did she not have the spirit to fight for things which were considered too small and taken for granted by others, she wouldn’t have managed to become the coordinator of ‘Reaffirming Equity, Access, Capacity and Humanism,’ popularly known as REACH, the equal opportunity cell of LSR.
The college also has a ramp each with railing outside the Café, library and one which connects to the new building, and lifts are situated in the new as well as the old building for the convenience of wheelchair users. Recording of lectures is allowed by the university as students with visual impairment find it hard to note down the text written on the blackboard, making them miss out on a lot of important subject matter. Lady Shri Ram College also has a resource centre by the name of ‘Swavalamban’ which provides technological aid to the students with visual impairment.
A student pursuing English Honours said that the people here are accepting and help a lot in navigating the campus. She feels content with the resource centre which also has digitised books, the new trend, for those who prefer E-books over Braille. By keeping up with the latest technology, the college has turned out to be better than her expectations.
Talking to Shweta, a partially visually impaired student studying Sociology, I found that the staff members were cooperative with the students, as she told me, “Teachers are indeed very helpful towards us, willing to help us even after the college hours.” However, she added, “Although REACH does provide us with readers to help during our studies; the timings often do not match, leading to a problem in coordination.” She suggested that a reader should belong to the same course and be a year older, as then it becomes easy to read out jargon. She further added, “If a student from a completely different course volunteers to be a reader for a visually impaired student, then a chance of not understanding the text properly arises.”
Hema Prajapati, who has visual impairment, shared her positive experience of living in the college hostel. She finds the hostel union as well as their warden to be very helpful as they find solutions to all her problems in a short span of time. In fact, on request by these students to have a room with a balcony so that they don’t need to walk around a lot in order to dry their clothes, every student with visual impairment has been allotted a room with a balcony. While she praises the college for having the menus printed in Braille in the college café as well as at the Nescafé, Hema wants the same to be done in the hostel mess as well.
Hema also feels overwhelmingly happy about being provided with responsible writers for their examinations who are well-versed with the language they need to write in, be it English, Hindi or any other. However, she complains of the tedious procedure of getting the internal marks corrected, in case they are inaccurate or signing of the undertaking due to short attendance as they have to move from one place to another all by themselves. Since most of the volunteers are students, they all are on preparation leave during the time of checking of internal marks.
Shipra, an ex-student with visual impairment, mentions that the various aids provided through the resource centre were satisfactory, which include laptops, Braille printing machine and record players. However, she feels that the tactile paving should not only be around the resource centre but be extended to other parts of the college as well, as this would allow students with visual impairment to move around the college in a more convenient manner.
Pooja, a 3rd-year partially blind student pursuing Bachelor of Elementary Education, is thankful to all the sports teachers who have always taken care of the students during the tournaments. Not only are they provided with special attention and practice sessions during the season of matches, the students are not left alone even for a single minute and it is made sure that every student reaches their home safely. LSR has students with physical disabilities actively participate in several activities including athletics, and also provides them training sessions for running, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw and shot put. However, she feels disappointed as she is the only student belonging to a Hindi medium school and the reading material given in Hindi language is less as compared to the material given for those writing the paper in English.
In an attempt to be more inclusive as an institution, the annual cultural fest of LSR – Tarang 2016, had activities such as ‘test the taste’, in which the students with disability competed against each other to identify the names of the food items by tasting. In other event called “Anarchia – breaking stereotypes”, a student with disability was a part of the LSR team.
Lady Shri Ram College for Women has tried to make the campus more accessible by installing ramps in the Tutorial block as well. With the presence of REACH which aims to sensitize people towards students with disabilities, as well as provide these students with various opportunities, by looking into the concerns, worries and problems faced by them, the college is striving towards a better and more accessible and inclusive environment.