[AI] Disabled-friendly DU? Lack of funds

Gopalakrishnan gopalakrishnan_vip at yahoo.co.in
Tue Apr 20 21:39:59 EDT 2010

Disabled-friendly DU? Lack of funds blocking progress 


Urvashi Sarkar


UGC grant of Rs.5 lakh termed insufficient


NEW DELHI: Many Delhi University colleges are in a poor shape with regard to accessibility of persons with disabilities. While certain colleges have tried to remedy the situation, the larger problem is perceived to be insufficient fundsand communication gap between agencies.


DU's Equal Opportunity Cell had prepared a detailed access audit report in 2007 of the accessibility situation in all colleges and departments and had written to each of them in early 2009 asking them to do the needful. According to the UGC XI Plan guidelines on grants to colleges, a one-time grant of Rs.5 lakh would be given to colleges to improve physical accessibility under one component of the Higher Education for Persons with Special Needs scheme.


Under the HEPSN, colleges can avail of the one-time grant to address accessibility related issues and ensure that all existing structures and future construction projects in their campuses are made disabled-friendly.


Colleges are supposed to write to UGC for the grant following which a UGC team inspects the college facilities and later the grant is sanctioned.


EOC member Dr. Chandra Nisha Singh said: "Some colleges may have received money under merged funds. Colleges may not be aware that they can draw from the merged funds to upgrade the college infrastructure for persons with disabilities."


"Five lakh is not enough to bring about quality changes. It will cost about Rs.40-50 lakh for every college to make its infrastructure accessible for all. Even installing a lift costs about 10-15 lakh." she added.


"Colleges such as Lady Sri Ram, Lakshmibai, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Khalsa College, Mata Sundri, Gargi, Kamala Nehru, Jesus and Mary College and some others have already started work." According to Dr. Singh, though all the colleges had been periodically written to, many were either slow to respond or had not responded regarding the action taken on the basis of the access audit report.


Work in progress


The EOC has prepared a list of feedback from various DU colleges regarding the number of ramps, accessible toilets, tactile paths, blind-friendly software, elevator, signage and parking that are available in the respective colleges.


Some colleges which are not on the list when individually contacted claimed that work was in progress but maintained that funding from the UGC was insufficient.


Miranda House College Principal Dr. Pratibha Jolly said a digital resource centre and scholarships for visually challenged students, ramps and disabled friendly toilets had been provided. Lifts and hostel rooms for physically handicapped students were also being planned for the college. "These works are taking place through our own funds," Dr. Jolly said, adding that though the UGC had sanctioned funds, they were insufficient.


Daulat Ram College Principal Dr. Kanan Nanda too said that ramps and toilets had been constructed with further plans for installation of lifts.


Acharya Narendra Dev College Principal Dr. Savitri Singh said: "We are among the 12 DU colleges which are not funded by the UGC but by the Delhi Government. The funds allotted to us for space development is limited as a result of which we have not been able to do much."


"The PWD which has constructed certain structures for accessibility has not understood the requirements for design and specifications; consequently EOC guidelines have not been met with."


Deshbandhu College (Evening) teacher Prof. Bipin Tiwari added: "We applied to the UGC almost a year ago and received the funds only last week. The lackadaisical approach of the university authorities and the UGC has caused many colleges to remain inaccessible."


Ramjas College which submitted a detailed report on its accessibility situation almost eight months ago to the UGC, received a letter sanctioning funds only recently, Ramjas College Principal Dr. Rajendra Prasad said.


"Five lakh is peanuts and no quality changes can be brought about with such funds. It costs Rs.1.25 lakh just to construct one disabled friendly toilet. We did make our college disabled-friendly about four years ago. But how long can colleges use their own funds which are needed for other things too? It is the duty of the Government to provide funds," he added.






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