Are digital education programs in India accessible for persons with disabilities?

Are digital education programs in India accessible for persons with disabilities? How do students with disabilities access online classes? Is there currently any guideline or policy of the government which educational institutes need to follow?

teachers online learning education

New Delhi, February 5, 2022: As per Census data of 2011 there are a total of 2.68 crore persons with disabilities who call India their home. This invisible minority amounts to 2.21% of the total population of the nation. As the COVID19 pandemic spread across the nation in 2019 causing lockdowns, just like everyone else disabled students were forced to join online classes.

Multiple students with different disabilities reported inaccessibility issues and looked for relief, demanding their basic right to education.

After numerous exchanges with the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), frustrated with the lack of willingness to change on part of the nodal authorities, Javed Abidi Foundation (JAF) filed a Writ Petition (Civil) No. 600/2021 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in May 2020 seeking inclusion of persons with disabilities in digital education programs of India.

To better understand the gravity of the situation; it is estimated that 1 out of every 100 children between 0-6 years of age has some form of disability or the other. Further the All-India Survey on Higher Education (2019-2020) conducted by Ministry of Education estimates that at least 92,831 students with disabilities were enrolled in Universities across India.

As per the orders of the court JAF developed a set of recommendations, checklist/questionnaire for basic data collection on disability & education for the government. The Foundation also demanded that an expert committee be created which can develop guidelines on digitization processes related to disability and digital education.

After six months of filing a petition and one year of constant advocacy efforts, on November 26 2021, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) issued a notice to all Vice Chancellors of Technical Universities and all Directors/Principals of AICTE approved institutions to implement recommendations made by the Foundation for ensuring accessibility of online classes for disabled students.

Further on February 03 2022, the MSJE Department of Empowerment of Persons with disabilities (DEPwD) issued an office order to constitute an inter-Ministerial Committee to work on the recommendations made by JAF to make digital education inclusive of persons with disabilities.

“Our order, which details the creation of an inter-ministerial committee on disability and digital education, gives me hope. The recommendations which we have developed, along with a draft questionnaire to be filled by educational institutes should lead to on ground change and credible data collection on disability and education” says Shameer Rishad Founder Convenor JAF.

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