Twenty two students with special needs from Delhi University recently got the opportunity to visit two prominent higher education institutions in the UK — King’s College London (KCL) and the University of Edinburgh.
The group was pleasantly surprised to see how accessible public spaces and the two institutions they visited in the UK were. Staircases were accompanied by ramps, special devices helped the visually challenged cross roads, buses with low floors and tactile pavements at crossings made for easy access. Several product packages had instructions in Braille.
The visit, organised by the British Council in collaboration with the Equal Opportunity Cell of Delhi University, had received over 100 applications.
The final group was divided into two batches – one headed to the University of Edinburgh and the other to King’s College London, where they stayed for 10 days.
The students learnt about state-of-the-art technologies and facilities, provisions for health, hygiene, religion and heritage. They also learnt about Assistive Technologies and interacted with the Union and Disability Unit Head, Assistive Advisory Services of King’s College to understand the scope, problems, and solutions to overcome challenges. Both universities helped students gain new perspectives on disability by challenging existing stereotypes.
Among many programmes, some attended a talk on ‘Paralympics and London’ by Rob Richardson, captain of men’s British sitting volleyball team for the 2012 Paralympics. Pushalal Ganesh, a student of geography, said, “Meeting the Paralympic athlete really encouraged and motivated us”.
The group also visited the British Council’s London office, where they met students and interns with special needs from other universities. Fiona Bartels-Ellis, Head of the British Council’s Equality and Diversity Unit, spoke to the students about its role as a cultural relations organisation.
At the University of Edinburgh, the students got a chance to observe the graduation ceremony. visit also included meetings with staff from the accommodation services and residence life and a guided tour of the Scottish parliament, followed by visits to Edinburgh castle and Dynamic Earth.
The aim of the visit was to help empower these students to return to India and work towards creating a more inclusive society.