NUJS Kolkata’s ‘Accessibility Lab’ For Students With Disability

A new lab launched at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences will be equipped with latest Braille devices to foster greater inclusion of students with disabilities.

The university has collaborated with IDIA – a charitable trust for marginalised students – to launch this one its kind initiative. It has been named after professor Shamnad Basheer, who started IDIA in order to promote “accessibility and inclusion in law schools and beyond”. Basheer died in August 2019. He was also the founder of SpicyIP, a blog on intellectual property (IP) and innovation laws and policy. He founded the website in 2005.

According to the trust’s press release, Basheer actively advocated for bringing in exceptions in the existing copyright laws for easy data accessibility for visually impaired students. “This lab is a fitting tribute to Prof (Dr) Shamnad Basheer,” says the press release.

The NUJS vice chancellor and Shamnad Basheer’s father inaugurating the lab on February 10, 2020. Photo: Swati Agrawal.

The IDIA trains underprivileged students and helps them become lawyers and community advocates. The trust is based on the idea that marginalised communities can empower themselves once they have access to premier legal education. It has also collaborated with Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India Pvt to conduct two workshops on accessibility in Bangalore and Mumbai respectively.

The accessibility lab will have all the new technologies to create “an enabling environment” for students with disability. The devices include Index Basic-D V5 Braille Embosser, Braille Paper Tractor Feed, and the Duxbury Braille Translator. IDIA has funded many of these devices.

The enabling unit at Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) also aims at helping visually impaired students. In 2017, the university established the unit after repeated appeals of Maitreya Shah, a blind student.

“We have JAWS software and a PEARL scanner with Open Book software package so visually impaired students have instant access to printed material. There is a separate room in the library for disabled students to work from as well,” said Shah.

The accessibility lab in NUJS Kolkata was inaugurated in February by NUJS vice chancellor N.K. Chakrabarti along with M.M. Basheer, Shamnad Basheer’s father.

Featured image credit: Swati Agrawal