The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), India’s apex disability rights organisation in association with the Centre for Rights of Differently Abled (CRDA) and Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad organised a national webinar on ‘Accessibility of Online Education for Students with Disabilities’ on April 27. The collaboration is part of NCPEDP’s initiative for the youth to create awareness among the future policy makers, lawyers, judges about the rights and concerns of persons with disabilities. NCPEDP is collaborating with colleges and universities to indulge more youth in disability rights activism and highlight disability rights as a matter of Human Rights or Civil Rights.
Held on a virtual platform, the webinar was conducted through a technical session by Radhika Alkazi, Founder and Managing Trustee, ASTHA. The session included issues ranging from barriers to accessibility, role of technology as well as the linkage to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016.
“Focus should be laid on understanding how laws are interpreted as it is often seen that barrier-free access to education is interpreted as constructing ramps,” said Ms. Alkazi. She further said that emphasis needs to be given on the high dropout rates which become steep at the higher education level.
A hybrid model of both online and offline education has to be followed wherein the needs of children with disabilities and their individual and diverse needs are being adopted. Technology can play a positive role of bridging the gap of reaching out to the furthest only when technology is accessible and inclusive to and for all.
“It is imperative to understand the current gaps in the system and ensure technology is best used for making online education accessible for children/persons with disabilities,” added Niharika Das, Programme Officer-Advocacy, NCPEDP.
While talking about NCPEDP’s collaboration, Arman Ali, ED, NCPEDP said, “The need of the hour is to create awareness among the youth coming from different backgrounds. Even in today’s time, the concept of disability is understood by a very limited number of people because, unlike any other human/civil rights concept, it has never been talked about. Under this initiative, workshops and certificate courses will be offered to students from law and humanities backgrounds, as a part of the Legal Awareness Campaign.”
Key points discussed during the Webinar included:
● Accessibility should not only be limited to physical infrastructure in terms of ramps and should go on to include web accessibility as well
● Access to education includes a host of factors and is not only restricted to the responsibility of the teacher/special educator
● A structured system of online education needs to be in place to ensure smooth access to education for children/persons with disabilities
● A paradigm shift needs to be seen around educating teachers on the use of technology