DU for the differently-abled: Emphasis on knowledge and access

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Staff Reporter:

Dhaka University has always been the epitome of knowledge in the country but how much of that knowledge is accessible to all the students remains under question. On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities that falls on Tuesday, looking back at the deeds of the newly elected Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (Ducsu) for the physically challenged students reveals that progress has been made.

There is a view that persons with disabilities are better described as differently-abled, and one such youngster at DU is Joshiah Sangma Chibol, popularly known as Chibol Sangma. He was elected a member of Ducsu bagging the highest votes among member aspirants back in March, and talked to UNB about his experience in the position so far.

Born with a rare genetic disease known as Osteigenesis Imperfecta (OI), Chibol has spent virtually his entire life on wheelchairs, tackling various hurdles in the track of education.

Now a Master’s student of Sanskrit Language department, Chibol said one of the ‘prime goals‘ of the elected panel of Ducsu was to enable greater access everywhere around campus for students with disabilities.

“As part of that goal, ramps have been erected at different entrances around the university by engineers with approval from the university administration because of our collective initiative,” said Chibol.

He highlighted that previously, infrastructural changes for facilitating differently-abled students were made without coordination.

“For instance, a ramp in the main entrance of Haji Muhammad Muhsin Hall was made after relentless requests of a disabled student attached to that dorm…similarly, the ramp in the Arts Building was made after my request to the then-dean of Arts faculty Dr Akhtaruzzaman which fortunately did not take long,” Chibol told UNB.

Ramps and slopes have been made at the gates of the Registrar Building, the Institute of Modern Languages (IML), Social Science Building, Ducsu Cafeteria, Fazlul Huq Hall and Santosh Chandra Bhattacharya Bhaban of Jagannath Hall to make it easier for the students on wheelchairs.

“The ramp in front of Registrar Building was long due because every student needs to go there for academic purpose at least twice a year,” said Chibol Sangma.

He gave all the credit to the joint force of Ducsu and university administration for the progress they have been making.

“Ducsu has become a platform for physically challenged students to be vocal about their necessities…Although it is a long process of legislation, the teachers and officers of the university are sincere to help the differently-abled students,” Chibol further said.

He also said they have already requested university authorities to make structural changes to the old dormitories and administrative buildings, in order to make them more accessible over time.

The Ducsu member on behalf of the organisation suggested there should be a separate allotment for infrastructure development centred on students with disabilities in the university budget.

There are still many areas where change is needed. Shortage of braille books in DU libraries for vision-impaired students is one of them.

“At present Ducsu is trying to involve other government and non-government organisations in supporting the physically challenged and vision-impaired students to make the academic process easier for them,” Chibol said.

Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty Professor Sadeka Halim told UNB that university administration is always sensitive to the needs of differently-abled students.

“An effective law is present for preserving the rights of physically challenged members of the society. Although some of our teachers still possess traditional mentality regarding differently-abled students, situation is improving drastically,” Prof Sadeka said.

She went on saying, “University teachers must know that being differently-abled does not take their (students with disability) right of education away. We are all ears to listen to their problems and help them anyway we can in learning.”

This year marks the 27th anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which is being observed with the theme ‘The Future is Accessible’. In line with that, one of the country’s pioneering centres of knowledge is making way for its differently-abled students.unb

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