Ever wondered how blind people take exams or tests? I’d never thought about it, but recently I read an article that yet again showed me how far behind we lag in offering facilities to the disabled in our community.
While developed countries have moved on to sophisticated screen reading software to enable the visually impaired to become independent computer users, locally a large number of Pakistani students are suffering due to this impairment because they do not have sufficient facilities to assist them in this regard.
I was shocked to discover that some higher education institutions in Pakistan do not even provide these students with the facility of writers to take exams for them. The burden of finding a volunteer resides solely on the students. On the other extreme, there are institutes like Government College University, who have taken effective measures to assist such students by offering a Centre for Special Students.
So, how can effective facilities be disseminated uniformly to all such students in Pakistan? First and foremost a complete review of all higher education institutions must be done nationwide to determine what facilities they offer the visually disabled in their institutions. The review must include how teachers communicate with such students in lectures; note-taking; access to written material; assignments and tests; participation in labs and fieldwork.
A complete audit must be performed to see which institutions are lagging behind and which institutions are providing good quality services. Once the stats have been gathered, the reviewing body must analyze which methods would best suit visually impaired students in the aforementioned activities. This would involve conducting exercises where students are made to use different methods in each activity. It would also require extensive research of the methods being used abroad. Finally, the reviewing body must select the most effective methods (in terms of cost and usage) and implement them uniformly, nationwide.
We lack statistics in a large number of fields and only when we gather and analyze them, will we be able to identify pain areas and establish ways to fix them.