Sunday, October 24, 2010

School admissions tests in India becoming more disability friendly

From The Times of India:

BANGALORE, India -- Common Admission Test (CAT) 2010 is becoming more and more disabled-friendly. Authorities conducting this annual entrance examination for admissions to Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) had introduced several measures last year. This time, it's no different; in fact, there's more in store.

Though the number of takers for its facilities this year has reduced, authorities have ensured that all test centres are well-equipped to support differently abled candidates.

This year, of the 2.04 lakh students registered for the examination, 640 are under the differently-abled category. Of them, 69 have requested for provisions like wheelchairs and magnifying glasses, to name a few.

The numbers have, however, fallen compared to last year when 763 students had registered under the category and 117 had asked for assistance. While 42 students had requested for magnifying glasses, four had used the abacus. This year around, 24 students have sought magnifying glasses, while 17 have asked for a scribe and 15 will need hearing aids. Wheelchairs have been requested for by 11 students and two have asked for readers.

"This year, there has been no request for abacus support. 70% of the students registered under the differently abled category are those with cerebral palsy/locomotive disability; 10% compise the hearing impaired and the remaining have low vision or blindness," Prof Himanshu Rai, CAT 2010 convener, told TOI.

Experts opined that students under the hearing and vision impairment category will need assistance. "But a majority of them appearing for CAT under the differently abled category are those with locomotive disability or cerebral palsy," Byju Raveendran, founder, Byju Classes, said. He added that these students will not require much assistance as they usually are mentally well-prepared for the residential programme and the new environment they need to live in.

On the decline in CAT registrations this year, Byju said the primary reason is the confusion that ruled the online test system last year. "Another reason could also be that rural students are not used to online tests," he added.

Ajay Arora, director, TIME Bangalore, said the online system has made it easier for candidates with locomotive disability and cerebral palsy as they require lesser assistance. "Though visually challenged candidates will require help, the differently abled do have the benefit of an extra hour to answer the test," he said.

Mujahid Ahmed, who is appearing for CAT a second time now, feels the online system is an easy way out. He has been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and the pencil-paper method would have put him in pain. "The computer-based test is much easier than the paper-based one. It's just a click of the mouse. Also, we can focus better here unlike in the paper test where we need to ensure the pencil is sharp enough and the circles are shaded properly," he said.

Ahmed has been permitted by the authorities to use his own electronic wheelchair. "We had an option to use our own wheelchair or request for one. Since I have my own, I prefer using it. All differently abled candidates will be appearing for CAT 2010 on November 9," he added.