HC orders UGC to furnish Braille questionnaire in UGC NET Exam

Born blind and hearing impaired, too, Miranda Tomkinson could not write the UGC’s national eligibility test (NET) last June despite having double post-graduate degrees. He is not so unlucky this time.

Thanks to a special session of the Madras high court and an equally special judicial order, Miranda will get a question paper in Braille specially designed for him, on Sunday (December 29).

Justice S Vaidyanathan, holding that denying a questionnaire in Braille to Miranda would amount to discrimination, directed the UGC to furnish a question book in Braille not just to Miranda but to all such similarly placed candidates aspiring to write the NET on Sunday.

Miranda Tomkinson of Ayanavaram was born blind and suffered permanent hearing impairment while in school. Despite the disabilities, he completed two post-graduation degrees. Eager to land a teaching profession, he sought to write the UGC’s NET which will render him eligible for being considered for lecturer posts. In June this year, he, however, could not write the examination because the UGC declined to furnish a question paper in Braille.

As all his efforts to elicit a responsible reply from the UGC ended in vain, Miranda moved the high court seeking its help to “work and live with dignity.” In support of his claim, he had furnished a communication dated December 23, from the union ministry of social justice and empowerment saying that not making available a question paper in Braille will result in irreparable loss to such candidates.

In his order, Justice Vaidyanathan also cited contents of the ministry’s office memorandum dated February 26 stating that persons with disabilities should be given the option to choose a mode of examination, including Braille or in the computer or in large print or using technology to convert a text in Braille into English or regional languages. The office memorandum also provides for extra time called ‘compensatory time’ upto 20 minutes an hour. Such candidates should be allowed to use assistive devices such as talking calculator, tailor frame, Braille slate, abacus and geometry kit.

Citing these provisions, Justice Vaidyanathan said UGC must provide questionnaire in Braille to Miranda and others like him on Sunday. He also had a piece of advice to the authorities: “Officials ought to have taken note of the difficulties of the disabled persons, and should not have made them run from pillar to post, as they already helpless.”

Source: TTI, TH

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