New Delhi, March 10: Any examinee with moderate disability of any kind and not just blindness is now entitled to a scribe to write her paper or a lab assistant for her practical tests.
Further, the examinee can choose her own scribe — unlike in the past when the exam authorities would pick one, ensuring the scribe was less educated than the candidate. This often led to problems.
The new entitlements are spelt out in a central government directive that, for the first time, formalises the rights that examinees with “disability of 40 per cent (moderate) or more” can demand from the exam authorities.
This set of rules, which the February 26 directive calls “guidelines” but which officials confirmed are binding, will apply to any examination, whether a Class X exam or an IAS written test.
“For the first time, we have a set of rules that will apply across states, institutions and examinations,” said Javed Abidi, director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.
So far, only the visually impaired were allowed scribes by most institutions and exam authorities in India. The new rules have extended the right to amputees and patients of cerebral palsy or any other disability that affects one’s ability to write.
Another crucial change is the candidate’s right to pick her own scribe. The authorities now allot scribes whose educational qualifications are a few notches below the examinee’s, lest the scribe provide undue help by answering the questions himself.
For instance, an MSc examinee might get a BSc student as a scribe. Or she might get a BA student, which could severely handicap her.
“Sometimes, a science student may be allotted a scribe who is an arts student and, therefore, unfamiliar with most of the terms. The candidate would then be forced to waste a lot of time spelling out words and phrases,” Abidi said.
There have been instances of scribes arriving late or failing to understand the candidate’s diction, too.
From now on, if a scribe is allotted to an examinee, the directive says, the examinee “should be allowed to meet the scribe a day before the exam so that the candidate gets a chance to check and verify whether the scribe is suitable or not”.
Besides, the exam authorities must ensure that question papers are available in the format chosen by the candidate — “Braille or in computer or in large print” — as well as suitable seating arrangements.
If a computer is used, the candidate must be allowed to check the computer system a day in advance so that any problems in the software or the system can be corrected.
Examinees with disabilities will receive an extra 20 minutes per hour of examination, and this can be increased in individual cases.
The new rules have come after long delay. The Chief Commissioner of Persons With Disabilities had asked the social justice and empowerment ministry to issue such guidelines in May 2007 following a petition from Gopal Sisodia, general secretary of the Indian Association of the Blind.