Hundreds apply each year to Presidency College’s BCA and B.Com courses aimed at students with hearing and speech disabilities

Son of a farmer, Sundara Gautham from Kaatudevathur near Cheyyur will graduate in a few months from Presidency College.

“I never thought I would finish school. My parents are proud I am the first graduate from the village,” writes the hearing-and-speech-impaired student of Bachelors in Computer Applications (BCA), on a word document, where he is learning to create tables within tables.

Besides Gautham, there are more than 15 students in his class, all with hearing and speech impairment. “Ten per cent of them can hear a little. The rest have total speech and hearing disability,” says N. Vinoth, a lecturer trained in computer applications and sign language.

Hundreds apply each year to Presidency College’s BCA and B.Com courses aimed exclusively at students with hearing and speech disabilities.

The course that was started a few years ago is only one of two such courses in the State; the other is offered in Kalasalingam University.

Most of the students are from districts across the State with a few from Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry.

The subjects are customised to suit the needs of these students. “Being an autonomous college, we try to reduce the burden in terms of the content, but make sure they don’t miss out on important lessons,” says Vinoth. Three teachers well-versed in sign language teach the students. One of the challenges is getting the students to figure out concepts of programming, say faculty.

“Most of these students have studied only in Tamil. Teaching them to read, understand and code in English is very difficult. They take more than an hour to get a program right, but it is easy after that,” says Vinoth.  “The laptops given by the State government are useful, but some sort of technological assistance would help them more,” he says.

The course needs more teachers, say students. However, teachers in the BCA department are not regularised.

“We get paid just Rs. 8,000 and have been working for four years now. Because of the poor pay, which is often delayed, and the work load, many leave the job mid-way,” says a lecturer. Three batches have graduated so far and most of the students are placed by companies for data-entry jobs.