UGC’s inclusion guidelines cover disabled, LGBT students, acid-attack survivors

UGC Guidelines: Framed on Supreme Court’s direction, the document also addresses the needs of transgender students, and survivors of acid attacks.

In January, the Supreme Court directed the UGC to ensure that guidelines for the ease of access to students with disabilities in universities. (Picture: Shutterstock)In January, the Supreme Court directed the UGC to ensure that guidelines for the ease of access to students with disabilities in universities. (Picture: Shutterstock)

R. Radhika | July 13, 2022 | 04:31 PM IST

NEW DELHI: To make campuses accessible to students with physical or mental disabilities, the University Grants Commission has issued guidelines for universities and higher education institutions. They also address the specific needs of students from sexual minorities and survivors of acid attacks.

The ‘Accessibility Guidelines and Standards for Higher Education Institutions and Universities’ directs higher education institutions to provide an accessible, barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities at every stage, from admission to completion of courses.

The detailed guidelines cover accessibility to classrooms, integration of inclusive resources, an adaptation of teaching and learning, and social and emotional learning. It also highlights the inclusive practices by making corresponding changes in curriculum, pedagogies, continuous assessment, and student support systems to ensure quality education.

In January, the Supreme Court directed the UGC to ensure that guidelines for the ease of access to students with disabilities in universities and colleges across the country are formulated in eight weeks. Following the apex court’s order, the UGC constituted an expert panel to draw these guidelines.

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“These guidelines will play a significant role in making our HEIs accessible and shall be accordingly adhered to by all HEIs. The NEP 2020 has also envisioned the provision for extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, removing language barriers, increasing access for Divyang students, and educational planning and management including full equity and inclusion as the cornerstone of all educational decisions to ensure that all students are able to thrive in the modern education system,” said Jagadesh Kumar, UGC chairman, in an official statement.

Inclusive curriculum, admission process

Catering to the specific needs of learners with disabilities, the universities and colleges are required to design a curriculum that provides the flexibility of subjects, course schedule, and reduced course load, the document states.

The course, as per the guidelines, must provide flexibility in pacing to allow for multiple speeds for learners along with multiple means of instruction to address different learning styles. Universities are required to offer alternative communication support at all stages of admission.

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For admission announcements, the guidelines suggest making content available on the website, through email and social media campaigns that can be read by using assistive technologies. The document also proposes the inclusion of information on resources on campus providing student support that is not stated in the syllabus such as counselling centre and LGBT resource centres.

The guidelines also call for providing supportive provisions specific to the needs of persons with disabilities like reasonable accommodations to facilitate their education. For this, the guidelines suggest a Need Assessment Board, which will conduct an assessment of the specific needs of persons with disabilities. Based on this assessment, a learner may be provided assistance related to mobility, therapy and medication, speech and communication, and emotional or behavioural support.

Gender and inclusion

The guidelines also acknowledged the specific needs of acid attack survivors and transgender people. The guidelines call for assistance in speech, vision, and therapy along with “preferential seating” to participate in activities for acid attack survivors.

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For transgender students, the document recommends that authorities should provide emotional-behavioral and psycho-social support, assistance in campus records and documents, and use of campus facilities.

The guidelines also underline that all higher educational institutes need to have “accessible unisex toilet available at all strategic locations wherever the washrooms for both genders are also made available.”

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