India’s premier business schools are showing the way in adopting a more inclusive approach in education for the differently abled students who continue to face exclusion. Seventy-three students with disabilities, facing visual, locomotive, hearing and learning disorders, are now on campuses at a handful of IIMs. Some were chosen in the general quota, few at the insistence of the candidate, despite 3 per cent reservation of the seats in IIMs for the disabled. The Indian School of Business removed stairs in one of its four entrance gates to help a student take the wheelchair, built a ramp around his accommodation and a new washroom, offered him a battery-powered wheelchair worth `1 lakh and even brought down the height of the stage on his graduating day.
Nearly 30 million people in India are afflicted with some form of disability or the other. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, places responsibility on the society to make adjustments for the disabled so that they overcome resultant practical, psychological and social hurdles. The Act puts the disabled on a par with other citizens in respect of education, vocational training and employment but they are denied it in practice.
The measures taken by the B-schools to prevent discrimination against or neglect of disabled students should be replicated by public and private educational institutions across the country. Special schools are only a starting point, just as elementary education is for access to quality learning for all. However, the absence of something as basic as ramps in institutes of higher education symbolises the general sense of neglect towards the disabled. Once the infrastructure is built and the doors are opened to this section of students, the rest of the society will be compelled to view them as independent individuals who can contribute equally to our progress.