Plea in Delhi HC seeks steps for visually, auditorily impaired students to cope with online learning

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the Centre’s response on a plea seeking mechanism for students with visual or auditory impairment to help them cope with online classes being conducted by educational institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, conducting the hearing through video conferencing, issued notice to the Ministries of Human Resource Development and Social Justice and Empowerment and asked them to file counter affidavit.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on June 2.

The ministries were represented through central government standing counsel Ripu Daman Bhardwaj.

The plea filed by two law students, Prateek Sharma and Diksha Singh, said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, universities, schools and colleges have been engaged in online teachings but no efforts have been made by the authorities to consider the needs of visually and auditory impaired students.

It sought direction to the Centre to provide adequate steps and undertake measures to facilitate online learning and examinations, including mid-semester evaluation as per the UGC guidelines.

The petition claimed that the government has completely abdicated the responsibilities owed to specially-abled students under Right to Education Act and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.

The government has promoted and supported the use of e-learning but it has not yet provided any content or material that can be accessed by students with visual/ auditory impairment, therefore specially-abled students have been left to fend for themselves, the plea said, adding that this has caused discrimination and irreparable loss to the educational endeavours of the students.

The plea sought direction to the Centre to “direct that educational material be made available in such format that can be accessed and re-accessed by specially-abled students and further that all educational institutions be directed to upload or make or make available educational instructions which is uploaded on the internet or website or any other such instrument to carry same educational instructions in sign language readily available and free of cost”.

It further sought direction that information related to the Covid-19 and website be made accessible to all specially-abled in text-to speech format.

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