Policies for Accessible Learning
Opportunities: Indian Perspective
Open and Distance Learning Services for Learners
with Disabilities: The Rights Perspective
Sudesh Mukhopadhyay
Chairperson, Rehabilitation Council of India(RCI)
The Information Age
Unprecedented opportunities for persons
with disabilities to participate in society
Access to knowledge, information and
Possibility of ensuring equal opportunities
for all
Inclusion and participation in society
Involvement in social, cultural, business
and administrative processes
Accessibility Policies : Key Features
 Coverage – types of accessibility included e.g.
web, electronic, other
 Scope - legislation vs. policy
 WCAG compliance
 Applicability – public sector only or private sector
as well
 Mechanisms for review, monitoring and
Inaccessible and unaffordable
Inaccessible web sites
Unsupportive laws
Lack of awareness
Lack of accountability on the internet
Accessibility Policies : India
 Generic legislation – Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities,
Protection of Rights & Full Participation) Act 1995
 No accessibility specific legislation or policy yet
 Review of PwD Act 1995 in progress; government working with
NGOs and disability rights groups to frame policy , get it enacted
 Copyright Amendment Bill 2012 opens many avenues
with significant implications for accessible materials in
alternative formats
 Signatory to both UNCRPD (2006) and Biwako Millennium
framework towards an Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights-based
Society for PWDs in Asia and the Pacific (2002)
 In absence of domestic law on accessibility, international conventions
and norms are considered ensuring that they do not contradict
enacted domestic law
Accessible Learning Environment
 Physical: Access to buildings, classrooms, public
utilities, technologies(Adapted hardware)
 Curriculum: Access to Courses, materials ,
pedagogy-Responsive & Inclusive, teaching aids
and learning tools, delivery modes- contact
situations, distance learning and e-learning
 Social: Access to peer learning situations, sharing sites,
interaction opportunities
Programmes and Schemes: Exemplars
 School Education: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA),Inclusive
Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage(IEDSS)
 Higher Education: Higher Education for Persons with
Special Needs(HEPSEN), Teacher Preparation in Special
Education (TEPSE) , Enabling Units, Equal opportunity
 Besides all other Components of accessible
Environment ICT Usage and applications is the Focus
 ICT Policy of GOI also addresses but in a generic way
 Assistance to Disabled persons Scheme(ADIP)
Status: School Education-1
 Computer aided instruction in general still not a norm, some
exposure though many companies like IBM working with
governments. Limited exposure of Students with
 Personal Computers and devices being promoted under
special assistance programmes
 Flexible and responsive school -end examinations
 Special schools of good standing more inclined
towards using ICT for Children and Young Persons
with Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disabilities (MR,
LD), Autism, Visual and Hearing Impairment,
Multiple Disabilities
Status: School Education-2
 National Institute of Open Schooling(NIOS) and State Open
Schools do use distance education mode with accredited
institutes/schools as contact point through regional centres.
Use Print Media, mostly Braille
OER a choice available; e.g. NCERT books available as OER
Accessibility through use of computers and flexible
examination policies
National Institute for Visually Handicapped and few others
transcript in Audio and Braille Textbooks and other reading
Status: School Education-3
 Some NGOs also prepare Augmentative and
Alternate Materials such as Low Tech
Communication Charts for ID,Vi,ASD and CP –
Pictures/words/Tactile by Vidya Sagar,
 Many a times Appex Institutes like IITs join Hands,
SANYOG Communication Software by IIT
Kharagpur & Lab Asia
 Adapted Computers(Aditi,Hardware,CP), Indian
Picture Symbol for Communication, GupShup
Software(by IICP)
Status: Higher Education
 Not enough students reaching higher
 Enabling units and Equal opportunity offices
 More young persons with Locomotor
 Issue of Course Options and accessible
Challenges for ODL for PwDs-1
 Agencies of ODL within the Government and
Private Service Providers
 DEB/ DEC lists more of Central and State
universities approved for ODL, few private
 No dedicated University for Rehabilitation and /or
with focus on Disability related issues
 School level ODL strategies not very clear &
Challenges for ODL for PwDs-2
 ODL’s basic characteristics very suitable for
PwDs; but design, accountability and monitoring
systems a great challenge
 Course materials not adapted for different
 Challenge of procuring assistive devices to use
ICT to the maximum advantage
 New Copyright amendment of 2012 likely to
improve situation
Challenges for ODL for PwDs-3
 Instructional design will need indulgence of
subject experts, pedagogy experts and ematerial designers
 Literal translation/transformation not a
great answer
 Intellectual disabilities ignored for
secondary and higher education while ODL
can be more responsive
Looking into Future
 In an age of Creative destruction- Evolving
Opportunities to Obsolete technologies,
the scenario for skilling, re-skilling and upskilling needs to be built up for all levels of
 Learning Environments for all but specially
for PwDs need to target for relevance,
employability and value creation
ODL related Challenges-1
 Commonly referred platforms such as
Windows, MAC, paper-based
 Training of PWDs to use these in an era
where these undergo rapid change
 The Issue of language used- Written, Audio
and Sign coupled with those users who
need communication Boards-pictorial
 All these can be barrier for accessibility
ODL related Challenges-2
 Content Specification, Selection, Sequence
 Linear, multiple and fast track routing: Audio tapes, Digital
Accessible Information System (DAISY), abridged , nature
and number of frames, dealing with instructional design as
well as assistive technology and technology applications
 Screen readers and or audio material do not address
individual challenge of every Blind or Low vision student or
even LD,ID and many other conditions
 Captions for Fugues and Pictures are equally important for
Hearing Impaired as well as other Learners(With or without
ODL related Challenges-3
Colours and multiple examples from unfamiliar
contexts can equally confuse Low Vision learners as
well as sighted, especially Intellectually Challenged,
Autistic Learner
 Universal design a good concept but specific needs
also needs to be considered
 In Indian context Software professionals need to
work with Special educators and also Specialists of
Assistive Devices
 Availability & Affordability the biggest challenge in
Indian Context