Human rights has been an important topic in the last century and will continue to be important as this century unfolds well into the future. The universal declaration of Human Rights makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual based on his/her race, gender, religion or their ability or “disability” as it may be. What is interesting is that in trying to live up to these principles some unintended consequences are becoming more important. When a physically challenged person applies to join an institution of learning, there is usually no place in the application that will require an applicant to indicate whether he/she is physically challenged or not. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that such details are not taken into account in the admission process but at the same time it leads to situations in which these learning institutions don’t have an idea of the additional support that they may need to provide to their physically challenged students in order to allow them the opportunity to achieve education as their basic human right.
I was in an interest situation last week: my lecture room is usually located in the basement of campus and that’s like a descend of a single floor which is a good thing in the absence of elevators. However on Monday of last week there was to be a Continuous Assessment Test (CAT) and because of the great number of students, the class had to be moved. The class was moved to the second floor of the building and the manner in which this change of venue was communicated was infuriating: a note was posted on the door of the lecture room in the basement. In case you are not connecting the dots here: in my case, that would mean going to the basement, only to discover that the venue has been moved to the second floor. Usually when I anticipate a lot of move, I would get to the venue earlier and hence allow myself sufficient time to catch my breath and on this particular date, collect my thoughts about my revision. I got to the second floor and had myself about 20 minutes of catching my breath. However that was not the end of the drama (for me): the venue was moved again to the first floor. Of course I was pissed and not only because of such utter disorganization but also all that movement was adversely affecting my plans for my mobility for the week. Yes, I plan all my movements for up to a week, at least, and sometimes even for a longer period.
The Faculty administration knew that I was attending that unit and yet they decided that such disorganization and indecision was acceptable; I am still wondering how this could happen and how it could possibly be prevented. As mentioned in the first paragraph, there was no information about my physical challenges in the system which is perfectly rational but at the same time because they lacked the knowledge that there is a physically challenged student amongst the “normal” students, they didn’t plan their room allocations (and anything that would negatively affect a physically challenged) properly.
The situation has been sorted out: the administrator will be looking out for any situations that will negatively affect my movement. This is just one instance and there will be many more like these in different contexts which seemingly stems from a desire to avoid discrimination but at the same time make life harder for the people who can potentially be victims of such discrimination: to be or not to be indeed!