Hyderabad: Rizwana, who is hit with orthopaedic disability, remembers her friends breaking down two cracked steps to form a makeshift ramp to the food court in University of Hyderabad in 2013. Five years later, her friends continue to do the same as the ramp was washed away in the rains or has been made uneven by bikes and delivery trucks. The struggle for the physically challenged students continues despite them braving the odds to study away from home, says Rizwana.
She further said, “There is no fixed system for disabled students. We see a few amenities here and there. Are they enough?” The UGC grants disabled students many welfare schemes to ensure equal opportunity. However, they are seldom implemented. Osmania University has announced building of a hostel for disabled students.
Rajini Reddy (name changed), a student of Osmania University, said, “The washroom issue for the disabled students is a matter of huge concern and therefore this separate hostel will help. The sense of community help is lacking as many fellow students do not clean up after them.”
Many a time, disabled students have to stay hungry as ramps towards the mess are not available. “One of my friends who is physically challenged stays hungry when her friends are not available because the caretaker appointed for her by our grievance committee was dismissed for being too rude and uncaring. There is no one to get food for her and she is unable to go alone,” says Rizwana.
Students also said that a few ramps set up in public places in universities and colleges are too steep, making it hard for even electric wheelchairs to climb without the risk of toppling over. The empowerment cell was first in the state to conduct a disability audit, which has led to the installation of lifts in many buildings.
Vinod Pavarala, spokesperson of UoH, said, “We have installed Jaws reading software for hearing-impaired students. Technology-based assistance is easier to provide. We have added ramps to our footpaths but we often see bikers passing over them.” The university has to grant financial assistance for equipment to disabled students, according to the UGC. But many students are not aware of this.
Professor V. Venkata Ramana, vice-chairperson of Telangana State Council of Higher Education, said, “It is sad to note that educational institutions are not following the UGC mandate. Universities should conduct disability audits. Despite years of demands, there has been no justice done to differently abled students.”
English and Foreign Languages University is a rare varsity with a fully functioning disability cell. Professor Prakash Kona, coordinator of the cell, said, “Our cell can support 70 students and has reading and scanning software for the visually and hearing impaired students. We also provide talking machines, Braille typewriters, white canes and net books.”