It is two decades since the Government mandated a three per cent quota for the physically challenged in the higher education institutes in the country but currently only a little over 0.5 per cent differently-abled students are enrolled. A pan-India survey of higher education institutes including the IITs and IIMs shows that of the 15,21,438 students enrolled, only 8,449 were students with disabilities, which is just 0.56 per cent of the total students. In fact, the enrolment has fallen from 2014, when 0.63 per cent were students with disabilities.
The People with Disabilities (PWD) Act, 1995 provides for three per cent reservation for persons with disabilities in admission to higher educational institutions. Under the Act, the Government promise to provide financial support to universities, colleges and professional institutions to establish Disability Centre to take care of educational needs of students with disabilities. The National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People (NCPEDP), an NGO working for the rights of the physically challenged population, conducted the survey to map the status of disability in higher education.
“The nationwide survey covered all students studying in top notch Indian colleges and universities. Of the 250 institutes which were approached, 150 responded,” said Javed Abidi, director, NCPEDP and the founder of the Disability Rights Group. “Our 2014 survey found that out of the total students only 0.63 per cent were students with disabilities. The 2015 findings, are no different where we saw that only 0.56 of the total of students were disabled,” he said.
The NGO surveyed top 20 colleges of Arts, Science, Commerce, law, Engineering, Medicine, Business Management, Design, Journalism, Architecture, Social Work, Hotel Management, Universities, all the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute for Managements (IIMs). The survey shows that of these 8,449 disabled students, 74.08 per cent were men, and 22.70 per cent women.
The disability-wise break up (as per the available data) shows that students with orthopaedic disabilities are 46.67 per cent, students with visual impairment are 32.13 per cent; students with speech /hearing impairment are 5.16 per cent and students with other disabilities are 16.05 per cent. “Isn’t it shocking that even after 20 years of the enactment of the law reserving three per cent seats for the disabled population in the higher educational institutes, the enrollment is as low as 0.5 per cent,” said Abidi.
“The Government clearly does not have the intention to open the doors of opportunities for students with disabilities. Infrastructural barriers, mobility, accessibility within the colleges, lack of sign language interpreters, Braille books etc are age old problems, which the government is unable to address,” he said. Abidi said that unless the government makes way to educate the disabled populations, it will never be able to fill up the mandatory three quotas for jobs in the government sector.
The 2011 census says that there are 2.68 crore Persons with Disability (PwDs) in India. About 1.34 crore persons with disabilities are in the employable age of 15 to 59 years. According to NCPEDP, the total population of people with disabilities is close to 7.5 crore, of which there are about 60-70 per cent in the in the employable age of 15 to 59 years. But there is no specific data on the population in the age group of 18- 25 years.