Accessible and Inclusive Higher Education Seminar

I spent most of today (Sunday) at a seminar titled ‘Accessible and Inclusive Higher Education’ organised by the Equal Opportunities Office (EOO) of The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). My respect for IIMA increased several notches today. I am sure I also came away, a slightly better human being.

We are not sensitised to the many other worlds that exist in the same world we live in. There are people who live in the same world but see it differently. Some only hear it, some only see it and some don’t see and hear it, but feel it. My eyes had tears as I saw some traces of how educational institutions could play a significant role in identifying and enabling the next Helen Keller or Stephen Hawkings! Could we be missing them by keeping our education system less accessible to the differently abled amongst us? I don’t think we have the right to say they are ‘disabled’ because some of them have done much more than what many of the so called ‘enabled’ have accomplished. Lets not get caught up with the right term – ‘disabled’ or ‘differently abled’ etc, but lets get to the root of the challenge we face as a society.

I reflected and enjoyed the intellectual stimulation on some of these thoughts presented and discussed:

  • Handicap = Disability * Barriers
  • The ‘so what’ test?
  • The us (enabled) and them (disabled) debate – seems so wrong!
  • Why seats reserved for persons with disabilities at higher educational institutions don’t get filled?
  • Have you thought of ‘Situational Disability’? Almost all of us face this every day.
  • How can we engage in action research to bring awareness to policy makers, intended recipients of the policy benefits, and so on?

I believe that people need to be sensitised to the needs of the differently abled people in our society. In a way all of us are differently abled and its just a matter of perspective which group we fall under. As one of the speakers rightly asked, why does this discussion always have to be about ‘us and them’? Aren’t we all one? Is inclusivity and accessibility just about ‘being human’?

Then, my big lesson is ‘being human’ – that is enough to make a place beautiful to live. I continue to believe that life is about being what we are meant to be and allowing others to be what they were meant to be. Lets not compete. Lets enable. Lets coexist. Lets simply be human.

It was truly a very different Sunday, one that I will not forget in a long time. Also it was a rekindling of a feeling that exists deep within – to be as human as we can.

Think. Sensitise yourself. Feel yourself in the other. Let us create equal opportunities for all – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” and the many equivalents of this message that exist. Let us try to live it.

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