The three-day exhibition in Coimbatore also has stalls put up by companies that provide job opportunities to those with disabilities.
Making education inclusive for the differently abled did not just mean giving them an opportunity to study in higher educational institutions, but also meant making all systems associated with education accessible and affordable for them.
This was the focus of the three-day exhibition on ‘Assistive Technology and Accessibility (ATA) Expo’, organised by the Department of Social Work of Bharathiar University, which took off at the university here on Friday. With the theme ‘A Way Forward for Inclusion’, the expo, being held in association with the South Asian Regional Office (SARO) of CBM, Bangalore, was expected to create awareness on recent trends / developments in the field of disability services, assistive technologies, and higher education and employment opportunities for the differently abled.
The expo, inaugurated by Vice-Chancellor G. James Pitchai, had on display various assistive devices and software accessibility tools and aids that could be used by those with visual, hearing and locomotor disabilities.
There were also stalls put up by companies and institutes that provided work opportunities to those with disabilities. Craft and creative items, made by children with disabilities, were on sale.
Another highlight was that the expo focussed on motivating children with disabilities to take up higher education, and also enrol students in affiliated colleges of Bharathiar University.
M.N.G. Mani, Chief Executive Officer, International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment, said that any new technology should ensure that it was assistive and accessible by all those with intellectual and physical disabilities. “The technology should be inclusive even at the developmental stage. If this is ensured, then there need be no difficulty in making it adaptable after it is developed. Affordability should also be taken into consideration,” he said.
There was a need to make more students take up higher education by attracting them with assistive technology that was accessible and affordable, he added.
Material preparation centre
A Multimodal Material Preparation Centre for the differently abled was also launched at the Bharathiar University here on Friday.
Sara Varughese, Regional Director of CBM SARO, inaugurated the centre and saw the various systems that were installed to aid persons with disabilities to learn better and independently.
The centre had advanced softwares installed in computers for those with low vision, locomotor disabilities, cerebral palsy, and visual and hearing impairment.
The centre can be used by students of all institutions on working days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. free of cost.
Ms. Varughese said that there must be increased awareness among all strata of society on how students with disability could successfully take up higher education. Appreciating colleges and universities that enabled the differently abled get access to education, she said: “Each and every part of the educational system should be made accessible to those with disabilities. This would mean, making all campuses, courses, programmes and convocations, accessible to the differently abled”.
Lamenting that less than five per cent of children with disabilities had access to primary education, she attributed this to reasons such as lack of teaching material, distance in travelling, ignorance of teachers, etc., and called for increased use of modern technology to facilitate education. A. Sethuramasubbiah, Head of the Department of Social Work, said that a similar establishment would function on the Nirmala College campus to facilitate better use by students with disabilities staying in the city
Three universities and five colleges – Sankara College of Science and Commerce, PSG College of Arts and Science, Nirmala College for Women, CSI Bishop Appasamy College of Arts and Science, Government Arts College, Coimbatore, Kalasalingam University, Avinashilingam University for Women, and Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya, - were honoured for adopting and promoting inclusive practices on the campus.
More than 10,000 school and college students, special educators, parents of children with disability and members from Government and non-Governmental organisations working for disability were expected to visit the three-day event that will end on July 21.
Sessions focussing on higher education, accessibility, employment, and equal opportunities for people with disabilities were also being organised simultaneously.