Interview from India (Part 1)
Listserv Interview # 2: Rajasekhar Vijjeswarapu, Part I
Understanding the rich and complex history of India would be no easy task for anyone including historians, but AHEAD is most fortunate to have as a member Rajasekhar Vijjeswarapu from Hyderabad, Telangana, India.
Rajasekhar finds himself at a very exciting time in the history of India as well as disability rights with pending legislation drafted that will be considered by the Parliament in the next few months. It has the potential of bringing about “tremendous improvement.” The previous major legislation was back in 1995 and was guided to some extent by the ADA from the United States. India, however, was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), but Rajasekar still believes that India has a long way to go. With 400 years of British colonial rule followed by great upheaval in forming a new nation, with great disparity among classes, it is significant that India is working very hard to bring change to its diverse population of individuals with disabilities.
As far as disability and higher education, Rajasekhar finds himself in a very unique situation as a member of the University Grants Commission. This Commission is the “highest regulated body for higher education at the national level” and is really the prime force in affecting disability services in postsecondary education. Its influence is felt by more than 400 universities and 15 colleges throughout India. Although this body is only about 10 years old, it has made great strides in improving the admission rates of students with disabilities, has created separate “Quality Units” which are comparable to disability service offices in other parts of the world, and is moving the use of technology forward with grant support. Barrier-free environments is another area of considerable progress (see the article on this topic mentioned in a previous listserv posting by Ashly Holben of Mobility International USA). While enforcement of guidelines remains problematic, the Commission continues to provide necessary reminders.
There are other special education organizations in India such as the Rehabilitation Council of India which also has a separate body for disability services, but the context is so vast, and much more progress needs to be made.
Rajasekhar has particularly enjoyed reading The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation by Doris Z. Fleischer and Freida Zames (2011) and recommends it as an important view of the progress that can be made for disability rights. Another favorite is Allies for Inclusion: Disability and Equity in Higher Education: ASHE Volume 39, Number 5 by Karen A. Myers, Jaci Jenkins Lindburg, and Danielle M. Nied (2013).
In Part 2 of this interview, Rajasekhar will tell us more about himself and his project in disability studies. Please look for the next posting and learn a considerable number of surprising facts about our AHEAD colleague in India.