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                            (Progress Report[1] of DU’s Innovations Project Code: DCAC 201: October 2014)

Secondary data sources suggest that nearly two-thirds of the 1500 plus seats that are reserved for differently-abled students in DU colleges remain vacant in any year (source: http://www.dnis.org/archives.php). This is both an outcome of lower enrolment rate and maybe a higher drop-out rate among such students. While lack of appropriate barrier-free infrastructural facilities in colleges may be an obvious reason for low enrolment and high dropout rate among the differently-abled students, it is very important to determine and understand the not-so obvious reasons behind it.

These may be conditioned by student’s family background, socio-economic status, class-room interaction with peers and teachers, level of involvement in other college activities, etc. This motivated the project “Creating A More Enabling Environment for Differently-abled Students in Universities in Delhi through A Dropout Prevention Programme” undertaken by students of Delhi College of Arts & Commerce under University of Delhi’s Innovation Projects 2013-14 scheme. Though the University is taking steps to improve physical access to colleges and its facilities, but it is imperative to understand and analyse the underlying factors, which in many cases may be more significant causes for non-enrolment / dropout. This research study aims at understanding and evaluating such factors using primary survey based data analysis and thus suggest appropriate measures to make the University even more friendly towards our differently-abled friends. The detailed objectives are as follows.

Project Objectives:

Broadly, there are 3 main objectives of this project, which are as follows:

A.     Analysis of secondary data pertaining to enrolment and dropout of differently-abled students in selected Undergraduate colleges of Delhi University, over the last two to three years.

B.     Primary Data collection and its empirical analysis to determine the link between the academic performance and involvement of such students and the constraints / problems they face in terms access to facilities, peer group interaction in college, family backing etc.

C.Construction of the first of its kind ‘Online Portal’ www.enablethedisabled.in that will allow instant communication between its registered members, who can then post their requests for scribes, readers, audio files, scanned copies of chapters etc., which will be instantly communicated to all its members (via email or other social-media accounts), thus enabling quick response. The idea is to get more and more volunteers across school and colleges to register on the site along with our differently-abled friends, so that all remain connected at all times.

 Secondary objectives include the following:

(i). To monitor and track the problems faced by the differently-abled students in colleges by interacting with them and obtaining necessary information. Based on their suggestions, help them organise into self-help groups and also approach NGOs and other organisations for extending help in providing readers/writers, if required.

(ii). Create more awareness among the college students and teachers and sensitise them towards the special needs of such differently-abled students through workshops, talks, exhibitions etc.

(iii). Aim at inducing NSS volunteers both at college and school level, to render services and fulfil the special needs of the differently-abled students in college.

Methodology:

The team working on this project consists of some differently-abled members, whose inputs in construction of the questionnaire and conducting the interviews have been extremely useful. Nearly 180 differently-abled students of University of Delhi, enrolled for under-graduate study across 35 colleges, as per the Delhi University’s Equal Opportunity Cell’s database for the years 2012-13 and 2013-14 have been interviewed. Students were explained the objectives of the project before being interviewed and were assured of complete confidentiality of their identity.

 Phase I (November 2013 to May 2014): Work done includes the following:

(i) Visit to the Equal Opportunity Cell, Delhi University and the National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun, to gather information on their working, facilities provided, main objectives etc, which helped in structuring the questionnaire to be used for primary data collection.

(ii) A short-film was made to highlight the common day-to-day problems faced by the differently-abled students in colleges. This film was shown in the University festival ‘Antardhvani 2014’. Visitors at the desk during Antardhvani were curious about the project and provided useful inputs.

http://youtu.be/8NocZdBJYDk

(iii) Questionnaire for primary data collection was finalised and 180 students have been interviewed. Given the budget and time constraints, it was decided to restrict the survey to students of Delhi University only (though initial plan was to interview students of other Universities in Delhi as well).

                                                                                 Innovations Plaza at Antardhvani February 2014

                                           National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun

Braille Section of the NIVH LibraryVocational Training Centre at NIVH and Braille Section of the NIVH Library

Preliminary analysis of primary data reveals the following:

Most of the differently-abled students that were interviewed face binding financial constraints, despite the fee waiver and subsidized hostels provided by the University.
Most enrolled students have a family base in Delhi. Only few of the interviewed students were out-station students.
Commuting to college and back is a common problem faced by most students (excluding those who live in hostels within college campus).
More than 90% of the enrolled students are either visually handicapped or have an orthopaedic handicap. Students with other kinds of disabilities are few in number.
Further detailed analysis of this database is underway.

 (iv) Creation and Launch of our website www.enablethedisabled.in: To begin with, a suitable domain-name was registered and hosting space was purchased. The website was created constructed by the team, with most of the technical help coming from outside experts. The online forum and registration process was made functional with each registered member given a unique user-ID.

List of registered members on the site
List of registered members on the site and request for a scribe from a member

 The interface was redesigned with more and better inputs. A system of emails has been put in place wherein each post is relayed to all registered members. Our database of registered members is growing slowly and steadily. Many other additional features of the site are still under construction.

Phase II (June 2014 to October 2014) involved the following tasks:

(a) Preliminary data analysis of primary data collected during the months of March, April and May 2014. This involved the use of statistical / econometric packages for empirical analyses.

(b) Generating greater awareness about the website www.enablethedisabled.in, across schools, colleges and NGOs, and encouraging students and members (particularly those with NSS) to register as volunteers.

Phase III (November – December 2014) will involve the following tasks:

(a) Detailed empirical analysis

(b) Document all the research findings and disseminate for wider reach.

(c) Develop the website further to help integrate the differently-abled students across colleges in DU and help them to organise and participate in extra-curricular activities, college festivals etc.

This progress report is prepared by Saif Ahmad Khan, who is founder of the Registered NGO ‘Save the Quest’ and also a team member of the DU Innovations Project (Code DCAC 201).

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