A New Dawn

Sociologist led Department of Students Welfare as an open up platform to unify theory and practice
Kashmir University [Representational Image]
Kashmir University [Representational Image] File/ GK

University of Kashmir is the highest seat of learning. For a person with any type of disability----making up to this institution is really an uphill task. Likewise, the case of Plato’s ‘Functional Specialization’, University of Kashmir has carved out a separate department that caters to the needs and requirements of students especially students with disabilities.

With the recent takeover as dean department of student’s welfare by the sociologist and head department of sociology, we find a better mind at the helm of affairs.

Being a sociologist, the honorable dean is the member of an appropriate clan to understand and address the issues and challenges of students with disabilities. In their administrative capacities, both vice-chancellor and dean department of student’s welfare are expected to be affectionate ‘Institutional Reformers’.

Breathing in the university air, there has been a call up for disability reforms in the university. As a researcher in the field, it is my obligation to reflect at the events through this medium.

Let’s strike the chord by digging into terminology part first. Physically handicapped, physically challenged, specially-abled, differently-abled and person with disability are different terms that we use for human beings who are not fully integrated with the society.

Going to roots, all these terms and tags were given to these persons irrespective of the context and cultural setting thereby excluding the campaign of ‘Nothing for Us Without Us’.

Taking a clue from the developments in disability perspectives, the term ‘Person with Disability’ should top the terminology list as it is the term used in top ranking disability laws such as United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

This term hints at the structural violence and oppression of person with disability at societal level in general. Specially-abled term sounds soothing and encouraging but do not have a wider audience as society is not ready to recognise abilities instead of highlighting disability.

So, it is the responsibility of DSW to popularize this term at a wider scale through different means like embarking upon different departments to teach ‘disability perspectives’ as an optional paper, assigning students assignments for earmarking developments regarding disability provisions in different countries especially South Asian countries, telecasting the inspirational life journeys of different personalities with disabilities on social media platforms and conducting campaigns at grassroots level.

“Impact of terminology must be reflected in the attitudinal change of society otherwise it is drum without music’’.

Second, we just talk about reforms at the university level. Mineral transportation takes place from roots to leaves. Schools, Colleges are the roots and University imply leaves. In order to smoothen Collage-University journey, DSW need to broaden its reach through strengthening of colleges-university web by designating a resource person in each collage of the valley.

Third, there should be a Single-Window Clearance System at Special-Cell of DSW. Non-compliance by other departments because of lack of dissemination of information mars the functioning and strength of Special-Cell. Translating the strategies into practice requires major structural and systemic changes with the involvement of all constituents of the system.

Moreover, Special-Cell needs to be upgraded to the level of ‘Equal-Opportunity Cell’ and a disabled-friendly-budget must be allocated.

Fourth, accessibility must be ensured as a Right in every possible aspect. Central Library of the University recently conducted a national seminar in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Handicapped Association – Khanyar, on ‘Services and Opportunities in the Technological Era for Print Disabilities (Visual Impairments, Learning Disabilities, Physical Disabilities) which proved to be beneficial on several fronts. These activities need to be continued more frequently.

Fifth, there are inconsistencies in the data sources regarding disability types. Within its possible capacity, DSW should prepare an exact data-base regarding disability-types and total number of students with disabilities enrolled at college and secondary level.

Sixth, the awareness among the rural population regarding rehabilitation and availability of resources is quite poor. In collaboration with directorate of social welfare, work needs to be done at this front.

Seventh, Department of Students Welfare should ensure that UGC Disability Guidelines and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, should be taken as ideals regarding disability activities in the university. These two instruments are the pinnacle of disability instruments at national level.

Eight, a visually impaired student has a very limited accessibility options other than Central Library of Kashmir University. So, it needs to be open to such students even after their course completion. Rehabilitation needs to be lifelong wherever possible not short term.

Disability Studies is taught as a subject at Ambedkar University New Delhi, DSW should consult the concerned department of the University for a way forward on this.

Janib Mohammed Wani, Ph. D Research Scholar, Working on Disability Rights, Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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