Due to visual impairment and poor hearing, he has been trying to exercise the option to write National Eligibility Test

Miranda Tomkinson, who has completed two postgraduate degrees, has been trying to write the National Eligibility Test conducted by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to work as a lecturer. Born without sight and having lost his hearing gradually after school, he has been asking for a Braille question paper for nearly a year, but in vain.

Representations, including an RTI petition, made by him, and on his behalf by the State commissioner for the differently-abled among others, to the UGC, have not received satisfactory responses, said the 35-year old. With the exam scheduled to be held on December 29, there is little time left for him.

Though persons with visual impairment have the option of using a scribe, he has made a request for a Braille question paper, as there would be a considerable communication gap between the scribe and him due to his deteriorating hearing ability. “We want equal opportunity to earn our living and to live with dignity,” said Mr. Miranda. “This is the second time I am trying. As an alternative, the UGC can conduct a special examination,” he said.

Smitha Sadasivan, assistant co-ordinator, Disability Legislation Unit, pointed out that according to the guidelines prescribed for conducting written examination for persons with disabilities issued by the department of disability affairs, ministry of social justice and empowerment, “persons with disabilities should be given the option of choosing the mode for taking the examinations i.e. in Braille, or on the computer or in large print, or even by recording the answers as the examining bodies can easily make use of technology to convert question paper in to large prints, e-text, or Braille and can also convert Braille text in English or regional languages.”

She said the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, of which India is a signatory, also speaks of reasonable accommodation, equality and non-discrimination, and equality of opportunity.

“This case will serve as a precedent for similar cases in the future,” she said.

An official from the commissionerate for the welfare of the differently abled said they have approached the UGC twice and will also follow up with the Madras University.

Ms. Smitha said they had approached the University, which in turn said it had approached the UGC. UGC officials were unavailable for comment.

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