IDIA Disabilty Access Programme
The IDAP team focuses on scholars with disabilities and provides them additional support and training. Additionally, this wing of IDIA also advocates for systemic changes in law schools and the wider legal ecosystem to make our spaces more accessible for persons with disabilities.
Introduction to IDAP
‘IDIA Disability Access Programme’ or IDAP was launched on the occasion of the United Nations (UN) ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ in 2015. One of IDIA’s core objectives since its inception has been to contribute to making the legal ecosystem more disabled-friendly. IDIA has sensitised, trained and supported many students with disabilities, as well as undertaken policy, research and reform work for making legal education and the legal profession more accessible to students with disabilities. While there is still much to do, we can take heart in the fact that twenty-seven students with disabilities, trained and supported by IDIA, are currently studying in various top National Law Universities, and that our advocacy efforts have led to multiple National Law Universities purchasing and installing equipment helpful for persons with disabilities, as well as introducing policy measures that are enabling for students with disabilities. We have also advocated for a disabled–friendly entrance examination and made representations before the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) Committee in 2012, highlighting the disadvantages faced by students with disabilities. The CLAT Core Committee agreed to our suggestions and allowed candidates with disabilities to avail of scribes from CLAT 2012 onwards.
December 3 has been celebrated as the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ since 1992. The theme, as selected by the UN in 2015, i.e. the year in which IDAP was launched, goes directly to the spirit of what IDIA advocates: “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment of people of all abilities”, and with the IDAP initiative, we aim to make a bigger impact in levelling the playing field.
Creating Inclusive Legal Materials: Honouring the Legacy of Rahul Cherian
One of the first projects of IDAP is to create a platform to enable persons with disabilities to easily access legal texts and materials. This project is dedicated to Rahul Cherian, who along with several others advocated for reforms in copyright laws of India that made it possible to convert existing texts to accessible formats for people with disabilities. This advocacy effort has been captured in the article titled “The Disability Exception and the Triumph of New Rights Advocacy” which was co-authored by Rahul with Sam Taraporevala and Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer (See NUJS law Review, Volume 5 Issue No. 4 – 2012; see also this piece on SpicyIP which documents this).
Rahul Cherian was one of the most ardent supporters of IDIA and was a part of IDIA’s Board of Advisors. Unfortunately, we lost him too soon due to a strange twist of fate. He was one of the finest activists and advocates of our time and is sorely missed. This project is a part of the legacy of Rahul Cherian and an example of his values and vision. For a touching tribute to Rahul Cherian and his legacy, see this piece by Lawrence Liang.
IDAP: Objectives and Activities
Over the coming years, the IDAP team aims to identify the key challenges faced by law students with disabilities in educational institutes and workspaces. By creating support-systems for law students with disabilities, the team aims to address these problems and enable the students to compete at par with their peer group. These support systems will involve innovative solutions that are created through active participation of students with disabilities, as well as a host of stakeholders across disciplines.
Internal support systems will focus on enabling these students to overcome the exclusion they face on a regular basis. These will include provision of technical training to students with disabilities, and creating awareness about alternative means of communication among law school students and staff. External support systems would focus on creating disabled-friendly and inclusive workplaces and legal education institutions. This will include creating awareness about the duty that both public and private sectors institutions, including universities and workplaces, have towards providing infrastructural support to ensure equitable access for persons with disabilities.
IDAP is a leap forward by IDIA in fostering diversity in the legal profession. IDAP seeks to bridge the gap between the letter of the disability laws and the real-world impact of such laws. It seeks to make a difference in the everyday lives of students with disabilities, who have been excluded from the mainstream legal education and profession. With the help of our team and dedicated student volunteers, IDIA hopes to create an unprecedented impact on the educational and professional empowerment of youth with disabilities.
The IDAP Interview Series
The IDAP Interview Series is a first-of-its-kind initiative of interviewing lawyers with disabilities in all spheres of the legal profession (teaching, advocacy, litigation, corporate, etc.). The IDAP interview series aims to solicit actionable insights from lawyers with disabilities on the strategies adopted by them to excel in their field. The series also seeks to educate and increase awareness within the legal fraternity, with the ultimate aim of fostering meaningful dialogue on reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. You can read our interviews below. If you have any comments/feedback on our series or if you would like us to interview a lawyer, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see below a brief overview of the other initiatives/ work undertaken by IDAP and other developments in the disability access space:
1. ‘Creating Inclusive Spaces: Empowerment through Equality’, Workshop and Training Program by IDIA
IDIA received a number of queries from law firms and other institutions on how they can support our scholars with disabilities through internships (and later employment as well). We therefore felt the need to organize this workshop as a means to effectively sensitise and induce more employers to create inclusive workspaces. Through this sensitization workshop, we hoped that a number of employers in the legal ecosystem and beyond would be more amenable to creating inclusive working spaces. This was a two-day workshop held on February 24 – 25, 2018, and was attended by various professionals including leading lawyers, law firm partners/ associates, and civil society representatives. The workshop was conducted by disability-rights experts, specialised trainers, and persons with disabilities in the legal profession, who shared valuable insights for making the legal profession inclusive.This workshop was possible with the generous support of Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India Pvt. Ltd. and we are very grateful to them.
Glimpses of the Workshop
2. Nipman Foundation Promotes Equal Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities
Promoting equal opportunities for all and inclusion in employment are some of IDAP’s core beliefs. IDAP also realises the importance of recognising efforts to make institutions inclusive. Some of these laudable efforts were recognised by the Nipman Foundation through their Equal Opportunity Awards 2016. Understanding the importance of removing barriers to give equal employment opportunities to all, the Nipman Foundation started the Nipman Foundation Equal Opportunity Awards in 2014 to award and recognise companies and institutions that promote employment of persons with disabilities. The 2016 edition of the awards saw organisations such as ANZ Bengaluru Hub, IBM India Pvt. Ltd. (Bangalore), and Sunrise Candles (Maharashtra) getting applauded for being equal opportunity employers and for their efforts in creating a more inclusive workspace for everyone. Read More.
3. Challenge against exclusion of blind candidates from Judiciary
The application of Arepalli Nagababu, an IDIA scholar who graduated from National Law School, Odisha, to appear in the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Judicial Services Exam was rejected on the ground that he was visually challenged. The P-PIL (Promoting Public Interest Lawyering) Team, another initiative housed out of IDIA that works in the field of public interest causes, assisted Naga in his challenge against the exclusion of blind candidates from the Indian judiciary. On November 14, 2016, the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad directed the concerned authorities to accept his application and allow him to appear for the examination. Read more.