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The background of this research piece is the systemic and structural denial of access to a set of opportunities to persons with disability. This denial is based on a multitude of presumptions such as a presumption of inability to exercise discretion and requisite skill involved in the trade. At this juncture, it is pertinent to mention the famous lines of Ms. Eleanor Roosevelt,

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

The backdrop of this piece is going to be the constant tussle between formal equality and the shortcomings of formal equality which require measures of substantive equality.

Research Initiatives

It is humbly submitted that most constitutions of the world promote equality in education however, though in practice, this remains merely a right on paper.

Visually impaired students in India study the same curriculum that is for sighnted students albeit with relaxations in Science & Math. However, such relaxations restrict their post school education. The cases of Mr. Kartik Sawhney & Mr. Srikanth Bolla are unfortunate examples wherein court intervention was needed to permit the students to pursue Science post school, who eventually got the opportunity to study science in the USA in Stanford & MIT respectively, unable to secure admission into IIT.

Even when I taught English to the visually impaired students, I noticed their tendency to learn by rote of the English lessons or test questions. Given the lack of context of visually descriptive stories wherein a white cloud or deep blue sea were both but meaningless, I devised my own methods of teaching sans the regular textbook for improving their English Fluency.

The Hon. Supreme Court in the case of All India Council for Technical Education Vs. Surinder Kumar Dhawan (2009) held that the court’s jurisdiction to interfere with the discretion exercised by such an expert body is limited even though right to education is concomitant to the Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution, given that the Courts are neither equipped nor have the academic or technical background to substitute themselves in place of professional technical bodies and take decisions in academic matters involving standards and quality of technical education.

The onus therefore lies squarely on educational institutions to periodically review and research new formats and methods for improving accessibility towards the differently abled viz. the visually impaired. If colleges in the USA can do it, surely there is a way.

We therefore invite students to present their research on the need for the educational boards and professional courses to think afresh and review, with a non-visual view, their education curriculum.

Over the years, the view that complex courses cannot be taught to visually impaired students has been institutionalized and it’s time we correct such a viewpoint.

Although the provisions of The Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016 seek to empower the persons with disabilities for full and effective participation and inclusion in society and equality of opportunity, the steps taken to under the Act only focus on reservations in institutions and organisations. Such an approach has given rise to numerous litigation over the years, first for implementing said reservation and second in deciding eligibility of a person for said reserved position.

Many study reports have highlighted the collateral damage of increasing automation and technology, i.e. making irrelevant the traditional 9-to-5 jobs.

Given such a risk, there is a need greater than ever to fundamentally re-think how the differently abled can be empowered.

Students belonging to the differently abled community suffer inadequate entrepreneurial support or any form of guidance. The underlying assumption being that differently abled persons may not be able to create or manage a business venture. This mindset has proved to be a wall blocking the knowledge of the concepts of doing business and thereby limiting their ability to be self-reliant. Hence unfortunately employment models for the differently abled have only revolved around making them akin to machines or fixed labour. If the employer out of the equation, they would be rendered jobless.

 We therefore invite students to present their research on the need for including entrepreneurship or self employement awareness in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, and whether there could be possible synergy between the Skill India, Startup India and Digital India schemes for the same.

The Reseach Program would be under the Mentorship and Guidance of Dr. Sanjay Jain, an accomplished law professor, activist and thought leader. Click here to read his profile.

Details for the Research Program would be put up shortly, in the meantime, do reach us at in case you are interested.

Dr. Sanjay Jain’s Profile

Dr. Sanjay Jain is Associate Professor at the ILS Law College, Pune and also coordinates the Centre for Public Law. Having 100% loss of sight in both the eyes by birth, he scaled academic excellence through his doctorate thesis was on Feminism and Constitutional Law. He has the teaching experience of 17 years. He has received a number of awards including, the ‘Most Efficient Disabled Employee’ National Award at the auspicious hands of the then President of India Hon’ble Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2004.

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