Doing away with physical barriers from times past is the first step to creating an inclusive model of education; JNU walks that extra mile
It is expected that the colleges and universities should be proactive in providing reasonable facilities to those with physical challenges. Their disabilities should not be a hurdle in their getting higher education. Not only the classrooms but these students must also have an access to the tertiary activities going on within the university campus.
Jawahar Lal Nehru University in New Delhi, a premier educational institution in the country, is trying to provide these facilities to the differently abled students. It is working according to the recommendations of UGC and following the guidelines of the HEPSN scheme i.e. Higher Education for Persons with Special Needs. This scheme was sanctioned in the ninth five year plan. The main objective behind the scheme is to create awareness among functionaries of higher educational institutions about specific educational needs of persons with disabilities.
JNU and Its Disability Unit
JNU has been one of the first universities of the country to have a Disability Unit of its own. Students with special needs are provided counselling services at the University’s Health Centre. They are counselled about psychological as well as adjustment problems here in this centre. A proper record of the students coming for counselling is kept along with mentioning of their physical, psychological, academic or relationship problems. Counselling facility is available for six days a week. Proper information through notices is given to the students regarding the counselling sessions from time to time.
Constructions and Renovations
Ramps and rails are constructed along with many other structural changes at various places with the premises of the university campus in order to provide a barrier free environment for the students. Renovation of the existing buildings has been done where toilets having wider entry are provided keeping in view the needs of those who suffer motor disabilities. Some architectural modifications have been brought about in the hostels too. It has been proposed that facilities like special gymnasium, recreational equipment, and special toilets would be provided in hostels as soon as possible.
Other Initiatives and Facilities
Taking up of new initiatives is a kind of ongoing process here. It is now planned that the new buildings would have a Loop Induction System which a kind of wire coil installed in the surrounding areas, under the carpets or around the ceilings of the walls of the rooms to help to locate the students who are not able to hear. These loops are connected to amplifiers attached to a microphone, radio or whatever sound source is there. This will be of quite a big help to the students having hearing impairments.
Due emphasis is laid on providing the appropriate hardware or software to the disabled students having low vision, hearing impairment and locomotor problems so that they may comfortably adapt to the academic as well as the social environment of the university.
Hellen Keller Unit
The JNU library also has a special unit called the Hellen Keller Unit which caters to the needs of the members who are visually challenged. Twenty computers and scanners have been installed with screen reading and speech software to facilitate visually challenged scholars in their studies in this special Unit. Signage in Braille is present at various schools and the library.
Due support and assistance is given to the physically challenged students in acquiring successful employment after the completion of their courses. The Disability Unit keeps in touch with NGOs as well government institutions in this regard. Workshops and Seminars are also organized from time to time as a part of awareness programmes. Further, it is proposed that for the creation of endowments in the university, there will be short listing of agencies that are interested in providing financial assistance to the students with special needs.
JNU thus seems to be quite dedicated to the cause of providing an accessible environment to the students with physical challenges through its various programmes and services while working under the HEPSN scheme.