From this year, the University of Madras will give students with visual impairment an additional hour to complete the examinations, according to its vice-chancellor G. Thiruvasagam.

He was speaking at the inauguration of a resource centre of the university for visually impaired students on Wednesday. Students with visual impairment were currently provided scribes and three hours to write their examination. Henceforth, they would be provided four hours, subject to the approval of the university's syndicate, he said.

“The School Education Department recently introduced this provision and we thought it might be useful for our students too.” Students with critical disability would be allowed to use scientific calculator, he added.

Speaking on the need to facilitate learning for persons with disability, he said that the University had ‘Jaws' software for students with visual impairment. The software cost the institution Rs.1.5 lakh in 2007, and now costs about Rs.60,000. Seeking the support of the government and other institutions such as the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Prof. Thiruvasagam said that if the software is sponsored, the University could make it available to a larger group of students.

Commissioner for Disabled Welfare C. Vijayaraj Kumar said that issues pertaining to disability and rehabilitation were largely dealt with in medical terms till the 1990s. “After that, it has moved on to social rehabilitation and now it is about their rights,” he said.

Observing that the government and the Commissionerate were committed to the rights of persons with disability, he commended the Department of Adult and Continuing Education of the University for its initiative to set up such an e-learning centre.

I.Arivanandam, Regional Director, NIVH, said after Braille and travel techniques using the white cane, computers were a significant aid in the attempt to mainstream persons with visual impairment.

M. Sahadevan, associate professor, Department of English, Presidency College, and N.V.R.Kapali, head, Department of Adult and Continuing Education of the University were among others who spoke.

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