International Day of Disability: Somaiya gets high scores

The Somaiya campus in Vidyavihar is an instance of what our educational and professional organisations must do to get to Modi’s dream of Accessible India

If we are to make ‘inclusion’ and ‘disabled-friendly’ not fancy-shmancy terms spouted at cocktail dos between bites, it may be time to ape KJ Somaiya College of Engineering. The Somaiya campus at Vidyavihar is walking the talk with its ramps and teaching methods that are designed towards making education easier for the physically challenged.

Pallavi Bhoite
Pallavi Bhoite 

First up, there is a ramp leading to Somaiya School, which means easy access for students on wheelchairs. The same goes for the Engineering college which is accessed through a different entrance on the same campus.

Niramay Khimasia, 12, from Chembur, is assisted by his father down the ramp. He has muscular dystrophy and is a Std VI student
Niramay Khimasia, 12, from Chembur, is assisted by his father down the ramp. He has muscular dystrophy and is a Std VI student

Here are some ways in which the institution is assiting the disabled. Orals and vivas: Shubham Singh, who suffers from low vision (20 per cent eyesight) says, “I had ATKT (Allowed To Keep Terms) in six subjects in my first year of engineering because I was unable to cope with written papers. This year is better since I’m allowed to give orals and vivas. I want to become a software engineer.”

The school has its library fitted with a ramp to help PwDs access books easily. Pics/Swarali Purohit
The school has its library fitted with a ramp to help PwDs access books easily. Pics/Swarali Purohit

Larger fonts: Multiple question options and larger fonts on question papers have helped Aditya Mankar, a first year engineering student. The Thane resident says, “I have 10 per cent vision. I dream of becoming a game developer and wish to design an adventure game. Outside college, I struggle to cross the road or take a train. In college though, it is a different world.”

Jobs: Though she has completed her engineering course, a KT in a final year subject proved a hurdle for Pallavi Bhoite to land a job abroad as software engineer. The Bhandup resident is an amputee and gets around using the Jaipur foot.

“I can’t climb more than one floor and have to use the lift. Because of the commute from my Bhandup home to the college in Vidyavihar, my family thought I’d never make it as engineer, but I cleared my exams. The college has given me a job as clerk on campus, till I clear my KT.”

Facilities: Dr Shubha Pandit, principal of the engineering college, says, “We have made our college washrooms accessible to PwDs. The doors are wider to fit a wheelchair and there are handles to aid them in the toilets.”

Accessible India
>> It’s a campaign Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches today.
>> It aims to make transport, public and tourist places, airports, railway stations, information and communication technology in India friendly to Persons with Disabilities (PwDs)
>> The initiative involves retrofitting buildings, framing accessibility standards for new buildings and transport, auditing private companies on the ‘accessibility index’ (how PwD friendly buildings and HR policies are), making all government websites accessible to PwDs.
>> Workshop will sensitise people about accessibility.
>> India looks to join the rest of the world to become an inclusive society with universal accessibility, independent living and accessibility rights.

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