Ashoka Reflections_SEPTEMBER 2023

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Ashoka University hosted a conclave titled, ‘The Future of Disability Inclusion in Higher Education’, with a

vision to make higher education more inclusive in India and create an environment that empowers

differently-abled students. The conclave was organised by the Office of Learning Support (OLS) at the

university, witnessing the participation of stakeholders from the Central Government and non-

governmental organisations.

Furthermore, it witnessed the participation of representatives from various higher education institutions,

including IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur, IIIT Banglore, IGNOU, O.P. Jindal Global University, St. Xavier’s

College, Ambedkar University, BITS Pilani, Thapar University, Azim Premji University, Plaksha University,

Krea University, SRM University and Bennett University.

Delivering the keynote address, Vineet Singhal, Director of the Department of Empowerment of Persons

with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, stated that despite a policy of

reservation in higher education, we still lag far behind in making the environment all-inclusive for differently

abled students. He remarked that access to both physical and digital infrastructure and inadequate

curriculum delivery methods continue to be the biggest barriers. Talking about the conclave, he stated that

such deliberations by stakeholders are necessary as they offer valuable insights to the government.

Echoing the sentiment, Dr Manju Singh, former Joint Secretary, New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, University

Grants Commission (UGC), stated that the journey towards inclusion has just begun. Talking about the NEP,

she stated that it is a clarion call to break down barriers, in relation to physical abilities, neurodiversity,

gender identities, as well as other social hierarchies. She emphasised upon the implementation of new

accessibility guidelines and standards developed by UGC such as providing specialised tools and need-

based assessments to enhance educational support for differently abled students. She further called for

greater collaboration among stakeholders, to address challenges such as financial constraints, inaccessible

course content, or inadequate teacher training programmes.

The Office of Learning Support at Ashoka University is developing a white paper on improving inclusivity in

higher education in India. The conclave focused on building synergy and gathering insights from

representatives and experts, facilitating the development of the paper. The university aims to submit these

synthesised suggestions to the government in the future.

Talking about Ashoka University’s vision towards inclusion, Somak Raychaudhury, Vice Chancellor, Ashoka

University, said, “We firmly believe that differently-abled students should never be prevented from attaining

a world-class education. This conclave is part of many dialogues that we plan to take forward, creating

pathways for the exchange of best practises, experiences, and research among institutions, enabling us to

collectively improve.” He further remarked, “At Ashoka University, we lay equal emphasis on addressing

invisible forms of different abilities, such as chronic illnesses or neuro-divergence. It is crucial that we build

capacities across campuses in the country to both identify and address such invisible forms.”

The Conclave is part of a series of dialogues that the

university is planning to take forward, aiming to submit a

white paper to the government in the near future with

suggestions on improving inclusivity on campuses

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