Indira Gandhi National Open University's (IGNOU's) National Center for Disability Studies (NCDS) is going to establish a first of its kind of a resource centre for the differently-abled in its university campus.
The program would be undertaken with the technical support of Society for Promoting Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE), Trivandrum.
The university in collaboration with SPACE will also launch a certificate programme on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for the visually impaired as part of providing exclusive skill development courses for the disabled.
This course will enable a visually impaired person to access information on the internet, 'read' scanned pages of printed material on the computer, create digital information and communicate with others using ICT. The course is expected to benefit the blind in ways such as improving their educational performance, self reliance and confidence.
With the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two, the resource center for the disabled in the capital will be modeled after the center that SPACE is operating in Trivandrum. It will act as a coordination center for all the training programmes held for the disabled in Delhi and Haryana. An estimated budget of Rs. 35 lakhs is required for the center to come up in the capital.
SPACE on behalf of IGNOU shall also be establishing the resource centers in other states of the country. Such centers shall act as learning cum ICT related activity hub for the differently abled (blind, deaf and mentally challenged like autistic, learning disbility, etc.).
“Within two years, ten more centers will be established in the country. The centers will also undertake production of audio content such as audio books, provide public internet access to the visually challenged, act as technology support centers and thus evolve into activity hubs for the visually challenged in the future,” said Prof. Arun Banik, Director, NCDS, IGNOU.
The course as well as the research center will leverage on a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). This will ensure that students will have the freedom to copy the software and share it with their friends. This also makes technology accessible and affordable. The center will distribute software and learning materials in digital format for free to the students who will have the right to further distribute and use them.
“Higher education is largely visual. There are lots of IGNOU learners who are blind; we thus need to follow five important steps to include them in the arena of education: provide access to their physical/ mental disability, give them acceptance, appreciate that different people have different talent, understand the diversity in our student population and implement an attitudinal change,” said Dr. Latha Pillai, Pro VC, IGNOU.
Buata, a Ph.D. scholar from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is a visually challenged student from Mizoram who feels that, “The development of physically challenged people is one of the criteria for the development of any university today.” He emphasized upon focusing these facilities and technologies particularly in the north eastern states.