The visually impaired students can academically be successful beyond any doubt if appropriate instructional strategies are adopted by the educational system and proper services are provided by the authorities. There is a need of full array of programmes and that too in consonance with their unique educational needs. The focus should be on fostering independence in them. All this is possible if due emphasis is laid on adequate curriculum development and by stressing on modification of behaviour and facilities.
The educational authorities thus could not afford to turn a blind eye to the conditions of visually impaired students who, otherwise, have to face severe setbacks in a multitude of areas as far as appearing for the examinations is concerned. According to an estimate, less than one per cent of the quota for blind persons is filled in the public as well as private sector jobs. All this is attributed to the gross irregularities in the examination pattern in school, college or entrance exams for jobs in banking and other sectors. It is estimated that every year, there are about 2,000 blind students who appear for SSC and HSC. But the lack of basic infrastructural facilities forces these students to remain behind the others.
The realisation of all this has made the authorities and various education boards to revise the guidelines and change the examination pattern for them. It has become imperative to bring to light this issue as bright students are unable to succeed because of these barriers.
Revised guidelines and examination patterns
The revision has given rays of hope to thousands of visually impaired students as it is expected to bring appropriate infrastructure and support system to make the appearing of exams easier. The new guidelines deal with the selection procedure of the scribe, reader or laboratory assistant, seating arrangements and visual reasoning for the blind. At many places, special examination centres are set up for the blind candidates. These special examination centres have teachers from blind schools who are appointed as Assistant Superintendents and Invigilators. Different subject teachers are also appointed on different days. Now the class X question papers of Maths and Science are provided in Braille for the Blind candidates.
It is now recommended that any person having a visual disability of 40 per cent and above should be allowed a scribe. The candidates with visual impairment can also select their scribe or reader.
Panels at district division and state-level panels are created to oversee whether the programmes implemented and facilities provided are reaching the visually impaired students or not. Candidates are also permitted to check the computer and are allowed to meet the scribe a day before the examination. Now they can use an amanuensis or writer free of cost, additional exam time and are promised that they would get ‘friendly question papers. They will be provided alternative type questions in lieu of questions having visual inputs in English communicative and social science for Class X, and history, geography and economics for Class XII. The examination centres are instructed to collect the answer sheets of these students and package it separately. This step would prove useful in evaluating their papers separately and locate their areas of problem.
The candidates can choose the mode of examination, i.e. in Braille, on large print or on computer, whatever they may feel comfortable with. The seats are arranged on the ground floor for these students.
The questions related to visual reasoning would be replaced by alternative objective questions in the entrance exams of the banks and many such other areas.
The bylaws now contain new rules and regulations which define a ‘regular course of study’. It includes maintaining proper attendance and laboratory work. It goes without saying that the goal should be to place the child in the best possible learning environment.
The intervention needed by the visually impaired students is beyond what is required by their sighted peers. The visually impaired students have many challenges which should be considered before making policies and programmes for them. The Government should thus keep on working for the development of quality education of the visually impaired students, which would prove beneficial to both the individuals and the economy as a whole.