Access > Access audits > Audit of colleges
Are our colleges disabled-friendly?
Delhi University has been granting admission to disabled students since 2000. But how disabled-friendly are those hallowed portals of learning? An audit of five colleges of the University revealed some surprising, and ultimately disappointing, results.
NCPEDP was given an assignment by HT Horizon to conduct an Access Audit of five Delhi University colleges and to rank them on the basis of their disabled-friendliness. The following colleges were suggested by HT Horizon to conduct the Access Audits:
However, we were not given permission by Lady Sri Ram College and St. Stephens College to conduct an Access Audit of their college. In their place, two other colleges were selected.
Finally, NCPEDP conducted Access Audits in the three colleges of the North Campus and two colleges of the South Campus. The Colleges that were audited were Hindu College, Miranda House, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Sri Venkateswara College and Gargi College.
The Access Audit team comprised four members – Ms. Rama Chari, Executive Officer, NCPEDP; Ms. Moushumi Ghosh Roy, Consultant, NCPEDP; Mr. Muthu Subramaniam, wheelchair user, Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (A.A.D.I); Mr. Virendra Singh Bisht, visually impaired person, All India Confederation of the Blind (AICB).
Procedure of the study
The team visited the five colleges and evaluated the areas that the students commonly use, for example, toilets, library, classrooms, canteen, auditorium, etc. The team also took photographs to support it's findings.On the basis of our observations, we evaluated the common areas in each college and marked them on a scale of 1-5 on the basis of their disabled-friendliness. The scores were added and the average was taken out, on the basis of which the colleges were ranked. The College that scored the maximum marks was adjudged as the most disabled friendly college.
Conclusion and analysis of the study
We did not find any of the five colleges that were audited to be totally disabled-friendly. However, on the basis of the marks that were given, Sri Venkateswara College scored the highest with 26 marks out of 40. Miranda House was adjudged the second rank with 25 marks. Hindu College and Shri Ram College of Commerce shared the third place with 17 marks. Gargi College featured last on the list with 11 marks.
It was interesting to find that some efforts have been made to create access for disabled students by constructing ramps at a few places. However, due to lack of awareness, the structural changes that have been made are ineffective for disabled students, especially for students on wheelchair.
Interestingly, none of the Principals we met were aware the U.G.C. scheme which provides grants for making colleges accessible and for buying equipments and resource materials for disabled students. The scheme also provides for setting up Disability Units in the colleges and for providing fellowships to disabled students.
It was quite sad to note that even during the construction of new structures or during the renovation of the building, accessibility issues concerning disabled students have not been taken into account. For instance, Hindu College is constructing a new toilet on the ground floor but it is not going to be disabled friendly! This is a gross violation of The Disability Act 1995, which mandates that public places, especially educational institutions, should be made disabled friendly.
In Sri Venkateswara College, a student who is a wheelchair user was admitted last year. He had to study from home for one full year. The necessary facilities are now being made available for him this year!
We were told by Ms. Hema Raghavan, Dean Students’ Welfare, Delhi University that there is huge difference between the number of disabled students who were given admission by way of their centralised admission process and the number of students who actually joined the colleges! “Delhi University although has a policy regarding the admission of disabled students but does not have any policy concerning the infrastructure and other facilities for disabled students in the college premises,” admitted Ms. Raghavan.
In conclusion, it is not just enough to give admission to disabled students. It is also important to provide necessary facilities for them in the colleges so that they are part of the mainstream in the true sense of the word.