While the world is grappling with the novel virus, a major part of the Indian population is struggling with the adversities to sustain their lives. But the differently-abled people are the ones bearing the greater brunt of the lockdown. At a time when the University of Delhi has unveiled a provision for online examinations to be conducted in the month of July if the current situation prevails, the differently-abled students have been pushed to a corner. Their vulnerable stance in the education arena is in a state of being compromised.
The difficulties faced by those students were, obviously, not taken into consideration by the Working Group on Examinations. “India is home to nearly 150 million people with some degree of disability. Nearly 25-30 million have severe disabilities. Most of them depend on a caregiver.” A sizeable part of those students is either financially marginalized or hail from rural communities with minimum or no access to the technology, Wi-Fi, and cellular network.
Students with visual impairments need a scribe to write answers for them. They need an escort for locomotion which involves suspending the norms of physical distancing. Others with hearing disabilities depend on speech reading to communicate which stands redundant with the caregiver wearing a mask. And the situation is unfortunate for a visually and auditory impaired student. They stand at a greater risk of contracting the virus because of the hardship in accessing the information as the media does not use sign language to interpret the messages. Most of them cannot reach a washbasin to wash their hands. Children and adolescents with cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome need assistance in daily routines. This makes them vulnerable to diabetes and hypertension which majorly affect Covid-19 mortality rates.
The students are now placing the questions in front of the administration as to how they would gain access to these online examinations when they have not been provided with e-resources and regular online classes in the first place. In a conversation with a student of the Faculty of Law, it was revealed that even the study materials have not yet been distributed by the University on accounts of the lockdown. But then why did the administration delay the process of the distribution until the lockdown affected it?! While some differently-abled students have been able to access the online classes, they complained of poor connectivity, audio distortions, etc, excluding those who do not have access to the technology and connection.
At a time when the lockdown has affected every strata of the society, it is an inconsiderate measure adopted by the administration to conduct online examinations while snubbing the prerogatives of these students.