Inclusive education moves forward, with SC directions

4th May 2022.

This past February was a landmark month for inclusive school and higher education for children and young adults with disabilities. Following Supreme Court directions to all States in the matter of Rajneesh Kumar Pandey vs Union of India, the Delhi Government on 24th February was one of the first to issue detailed directions to all Government, aided and un-aided recognized schools to hire special educators and provide facilities such as resource rooms.  Also in February, pursuant to Supreme Court directions in a case argued by the Disability Law Initiative, the University Grants Commission published draft guidelines to make higher education institutions accessible for students with disabilities.

The Delhi Govt. instructions were in compliance of the judgment and order of the Supreme Court dated 28th October 2021 in the matter of Rajneesh Kumar Pandey vs Union of India. The Court was concerned that the mandate for inclusive school education in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, was not being implemented earnestly by the State Governments, and directed them to appoint an adequate number of Special Educators in mainstream schools according to the stipulated pupil-teacher ratio.

The Delhi Government instructions require all schools (Government, aided and unaided) to provide inclusive education to children with disabilities by appointing special education teachers, caregivers/attendants and other staff. Every school is to establish Resource Rooms for providing individual academic and therapeutic support to children with special needs and based on the severity of their special educational needs, the special educator may decide the length of Resource Room teaching period. The instructions hold the Head of School accountable for implementation of the guidelines by noting their compliance in their Annual Performance Appraisal Report and taking appropriate action against them as per rules in the event of non-compliance.

See a copy of the Delhi Government instructions here.

The UGC draft guidelines for accessibility in higher education institutions were published in February 2022. This was done in compliance of the judgment and order of the Supreme Court in the case of Disabled Rights Group vs. Union of India, argued by the Disability Law Initiative. The draft guidelines are comprehensive and detailed, while covering areas such as Mobility Infrastructure, Built Infrastructure, Accessible Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Accessible Assessment and Examinations, Accessible ICT, Use of Assistive Technology, and Resources and Services to promote Inclusive Campus Living.

Significantly, the guidelines also require the college accreditation and ranking authorities to take into account the compliance of the colleges with these guidelines in arriving at their accreditation and ranking decisions.

See a copy of the UGC draft guidelines here.