GUWAHATI CITY

Accessibility A Far Cry For Visually-Impaired Students

Students

GUWAHATI: The visually-impaired students of Assam do not have access to mathematics after Class IV standard. The reason is that Assam does not have the software that is a must for the implementation of mathematics in the Braille system. This is not all. There is no college in the State for visually-impaired students.

The Accessible India campaign was launched in the country by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) in 2015. However, the situation of accessibility in Assam, especially for visually-impaired students, is pathetic.

The State has six schools for blind students. The Northeast’s only government Braille press is also located at Basistha in Guwahati. Textbooks for blind schools in the State are printed in this press. This press also caters to the needs of blind students reading in general colleges by printing their textbooks in the Braille system on demand.

This press is not fully equipped with the latest software for mathematics that has a whole lot of signs and symbols. This press can print mathematics textbooks up to Class IV. From Class V onwards, all Braille presses need to install the software to print the UNICEF-sponsored Braille Mathematics Code for India that contains various mathematical signs and symbols for blind students. However, the Braille press in Guwahati does not have that software.

Talking to The Sentinel, Government Braille Press, Guwahati Manager MN Hussain said: “I approached the higher-ups in the Department of Education, Assam Textbook Production and Publication Corporation (ATPPC) and the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA) many times for the installation of the software. However, no positive response is forthcoming.”

Principal of Assam Andha Sishu Vidyalaya, Bihpuria, Lakhimpur Diganta Hazarika said: “We can just give a general concept of geometry and trigonometry to visually-impaired students. Proofs in science, geometry and trigonometry can’t be taught to such students. From the general concepts such students have to learn either with their retentive memories or by recording what is taught the class. They’re deprived the actual knowledge and concepts of such subjects. According to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, every state must have a college for visually-impaired students, besides a centre for Braille training of blind school teachers. However, there’s none of the two in Assam.”

Pratibandhi Suraksha Sangstha, Assam (PSSA) general secretary Nripen Malakar said: “We’ve requested the State government several times to upgrade the Braille press. We’re also demanding the government for the appointment of Braille-trained teachers for blind schools in the State. At a time when the Accessible India Campaign is gaining ground in the country, the blind students in Assam have to face such inaccessibility.”

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