Pondicherry University has been chosen for the national award for being the Best Training Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
Seeing a professor roll into class on a wheelchair or visual-impaired students in the library listening to their lessons is a fairly common sight at Pondicherry University. So it comes as no surprise that the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment has chosen Pondicherry University for the national award for being the Best Training Institution for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, 2011.
“Ever since the 11th Plan was implemented, I made sure that people with physical disabilities were not denied quality education because they could not access certain areas or lessons. Pondicherry University is the first university in India to be given this award, which is usually reserved for NGOs, special schools and training centres,” explains vice-chancellor J.A.K. Tareen, speaking to The Hindu Education Plus about the award.
“So far, we have 60 students and 13 faculty who are physically challenged — both visually and orthopedically-challenged and we want to make sure that they do not lack anything on the campus,” he says.
All of the differently-abled people who join Pondicherry University will be given free education. This is not limited to the tuition, but also for boarding and lodging at the university's hostel.
There is also a 3 per cent reservation for physically-challenged students as per the government norms, he said.
One of the biggest steps the university has taken to bridge the learning barrier is to equip the computers at the library with special software ‘Jaws' for the visually-challenged, so that they will be able to download coursework and journal entries and listen to them.
Scanners have also been provided so that they can read any of the books in the library.
They are also in the process of building a new library, where there will be a dedicated area for the visually-impaired, he said.
Apart from this, the university has ensured that all the buildings have been provided with ramps and elevators that can accommodate wheelchairs. Even the older buildings have been modified to allow wheelchair access. In the hostels, physically-challenged students are given single rooms with attached, modified bathrooms.
For students who choose to travel from the town, free transport is provided from town to the university as well as within the campus. Seats are reserved on these buses/vans for people with special abilities.
Additionally, motorized wheelchairs have been provided in the mess and the library, to be used by students and faculty.
Also, whenever new modifications are made to buildings on the campus, great care is taken to ensure that wheelchair access and other facilities for physically-challenged people are provided, he said.
“Many people with different abilities lose faith in their abilities to have a quality education from a good university. We are doing our best to ensure that our campus is friendly towards the differently-abled and that they see it as a way to fulfil their dreams. We hope other universities will follow suit soon and make their campus more amenable to the needs of people with special needs,” Mr. Tareen said.