Kirori Mal College sets up Centre for Disability Research

The centre, formally launched on Thursday, is interdisciplinary by nature.

Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College has set up a Centre for Disability Research, the first of its kind, to encourage academic engagement with disability and promote disability studies as a legitimate field of academic enquiry.

The centre, formally launched on Thursday, is interdisciplinary by nature. The faculty members associated with it are drawn from various departments of the college: English, Hindi, Zoology, Commerce, Geography, Political Science, Economics and Chemistry.

“Disability studies is yet to become a part of our academic consciousness in India. People would raise eyebrows at, say, approaching the study of a period of history through the lens of disability. We thought it would be desirable to promote it as a critical tool of engagement, like gender and caste. The aim is to create awareness that this is a valid, viable perspective to approach the study of society and culture. It would also dovetail into our objective of trying to work towards an inclusive campus and society,” said Dr Someshwar Sati, coordinator of the centre and teacher in the college’s English department.

So far, 53 students of the college are a part of the centre following a selection process.

Dr Shilpa Das, principal faculty of Interdisciplinary Design Studies at NID Ahmedabad, has already conducted two talks on conceptualising disability and disability studies. According to Dr Sati, a series of 11 lectures is lined up which will be delivered by international scholars on why disability research matters, and to help them understand and explore different possibilities of disability research. Following this, the centre will help them evolve viable projects.

“This is separate from a rehabilitation approach. When we talk about disability studies, what we say is that the problem is not persons with disabilities but the way that the idea of the normal has been constructed to create problems for disabled persons. We need to look at different ways of approaching the corporeal difference… Students could work on projects that explore the intersection of disability with gender, projects on inclusive and universal design, on how to analyse literary texts and movies,” said Dr Sati.

The centre is also planning to start a certificate course from January next year.

Principal Vibha Chauhan said a certificate course – open to people across the country – had also been held earlier this year which saw a good response, after which the idea of the centre had evolved. “There is interest and potential for good research, we might bring out a publication as well. Apart from research, the focus is also going to be on training in understanding the concept of disability with outreach for the college’s students and faculty, but it will also be open to people outside the college. We are going to earmark space for training and a little library,” she said.

On Thursday, the centre, in collaboration with NGO Saksham, also launched Aarohan – an initiative to create inclusive opportunities in higher education for visually impaired students. Assistive devices such as laptops, electronic Braille display, daisy players and tablets were distributed to visually impaired students of the college, after a need- assessment survey had been carried to ask them what kind of aid they required for their learning.

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