How a DU law student is fighting for accessibility

For this Delhi University law faculty student, legal education is only part of a much wider campaign for accessibility and inclusion.

Gauri Gupta, a final year law student at faculty of Law, University of Delhi. (Image Source: Gauri Gupta)Gauri Gupta, a final year law student at faculty of Law, University of Delhi. (Image Source: Gauri Gupta)

Sanjay | January 19, 2024 | 02:06 PM IST

NEW DELHI: For Gauri Gupta, delving into the realm of law is a crucial part of her journey in disability advocacy. Gupta is a final year law student at faculty of Law, University of Delhi. She is also a writer, editor, and digital creator who passionately advocates for disability rights. As a disability inclusion facilitator, she actively raises awareness about better accessibility and inclusion. She collaborates with organisations and stakeholders and contributes to development and implementation initiatives, advancing disability inclusion across various intersections.

She lives with Spina Bifida, a congenital disability that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.

As a wheelchair user, Gupta actively advocates for increased accessibility for people with disabilities. “Studying law enhances my advocacy skills. I plan to use this knowledge to work better towards inclusivity and accessibility in the future,” Gupta told Careers360.

Hailing from Delhi, Gupta completed her BA (Hons) in philosophy with a minor in psychology from DU’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Through her personal experiences of inaccessibility on school and college campuses, she firmly believes that there’s substantial room for enhancing accessibility within educational institutions.

“Unfortunately, accessibility features remain scarce in many schools and colleges. Even when these features are introduced, they often come with their own set of challenges. It is evident that there is much work to be done at an institutional level to ensure accessibility becomes a standard,” she expressed.

Also read ‘Person, not anatomy’: How disabled MBBS students fight challenges in medical colleges

As per the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2021-22 report, only 27% schools in India have special toilets for children with special needs (CSWN) and 50.3% of them do not have ramps with handrails.

Disability Educator Challenges

Since her college days, Gupta has been utilising social media platforms to shed light on the lived experiences of disabled individuals, aiming to foster a more inclusive society.

She shares her own experiences to teach about the impact of societal barriers. “A big challenge is getting people to see our stories, not just as ‘inspirational anecdotes’, but as a call for real change. Until that shift happens, moving in the right direction remains a big challenge in our work,” she said.

Through her Instagram posts, she advocates for inclusivity and raises awareness about the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.

“It is not an isolated issue affecting a few. It is a widespread struggle, particularly evident in the thousands of children facing barriers to accessible education. This challenge extends beyond educational institutions and permeates public spaces,” she emphasised.

“Our primary thrust for change should pivot towards fostering genuine inclusion and championing universal design, emphasising it as an integral aspect rather than treating accessibility as a standalone concern,” she added.

Also read How top law colleges are taking a new approach to legal aid

Disability and claiming spaces

Gupta believes that disability is an integral part of the identity of a person.

“I believe our identities are valid not ‘despite’ our disabilities, but with them. It reflects the idea that disability is an integral part of our identity. It emphasises seeing our identities as whole, recognising that disability is not a separate aspect but influences our everyday experiences,” she said.

According to Gupta, claiming spaces for disabled individuals can be “highly challenging due to existing barriers and the lack of agency resulting from ableism.”

She calls for public awareness, active support and promoting accessible infrastructure.

“This involves promoting accessible infrastructure, fostering inclusive policies and encouraging open conversations. People can contribute by advocating for inclusivity, educating themselves about disability as a first step, and actively supporting initiatives that promote equal access and representation for people with disabilities,” she said.

Studying law

Even though the women candidates have outnumbered men in the last two editions of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), the gender ratio in the classrooms of top law schools is still skewed in favour of men.

Gupta believes that only a “systemic change” can achieve a better gender ratio in law classrooms.

“As a female law student, witnessing the growing interest among women in the CLAT exam is heartening. However, I recognise my privilege and acknowledge that achieving a better gender ratio requires systemic change. Despite the increasing number of women in law courses, addressing the current gender gap necessitates ongoing efforts to break down systemic barriers and ensure equal opportunities for everyone, fostering a more balanced representation in the legal field or any field for that matter,” she said.

Also read Most top law schools have less than 50% women students: Analysis

According to her, the perspective of disabled students is “invaluable in the legal realm”.

“Embrace your identity and don’t let ableism (discrimination on the basis of disability) affect you. Seek out supportive environments, advocate for your needs, it is your journey, do it at your pace and take it in a direction you want to go,” Gupta advised, drawing from her experience as a law student.

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