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A question paper Miranda could read

Asha Sridhar
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Small victory for rights activists as visually-impaired man takes UGC test in Braille

Miranda Tomkinson after the NET on Sunday—Photo: M. Vedhan
Miranda Tomkinson after the NET on Sunday—Photo: M. Vedhan

On Sunday, when 35-year-old Miranda Tomkinson took the national eligibility test (NET) of the University Grants Commission (UGC) at a private college in the city, for the first time in his life, he read the questions without the help of a scribe.

Not just that, the visually-impaired Tomkinson also read out the answers to his scribe with the help of the Braille question paper.

He walked out of the examination hall with the question paper, almost like everybody else. He can now store his question paper and more importantly, refer to it without anybody’s help. This was not possible before.

Tomkinson, who also has a degenerative hearing disorder, was able to get a Braille question paper on Sunday after a year-long struggle and a host of representations, including an RTI petition, to UGC. On Friday, the Madras High Court directed UGC to set the paper for the visually impaired in Braille.

Tomkinson was writing the exam to be eligible for the post of assistant professor.

Smitha Sadasivam, assistant coordinator, disability legislation unit of Vidya Sagar, which took up his cause, said this was the first time the UGC had given a Braille question paper and the case had set a precedent.

“I cannot forget this day,” said Tomkinson after a day spent writing paper I, II and III of the Test.

“In the absence of communication, it is not possible to accomplish anything,” he said.

Though it was a victory for Tomkinson on Sunday, Sadasivam said, as per court order, the facility should have been extended to all the visually-impaired candidates who appeared for the Test.

UGC officials were unavailable for comment.


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