IDIA Disabilty Access Programme

Pictured here are some of our disabled scholars along with some IDIA volunteers during an event

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

‘IDIA Disability Access Programme’ or IDAP was launched on in 2015 on 3 December, which is celebrated as the United Nations’ ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’. One of IDIA’s core objectives since its inception has been to contribute to making the legal ecosystem more disabled-friendly. The theme, as selected by the United Nations in 2015, 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.

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 many students with disabilities, trained and supported by IDIA, are currently studying (and have studied) in various top National Law Universities. We have also successfully advocated for institutional and policy changes.

Objectives

Over the coming years, the IDAP team aims to identify the key challenges and barriers faced by law students with disabilities in their 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.

Honouring the Legacy of Rahul Cherian

One of the first projects of IDAP that we are keen on pursuing 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 late 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.

The IDAP Interview Series

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 info@idialaw.org.

IDAP Workshops and Trainings
  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. 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

  1. IDAP Workshop for IDIA Scholars with Disabilities

Less than 5% of persons with disabilities in India complete their higher education, owing in no small part to lack of accessible facilities and environment. This workshop aimed to facilitate IDIA Scholars with disabilities to overcome some of the barriers they face.

The workshop for IDIA Scholars with disabilities was a two day specialised learning, training and education workshop for IDIA Scholars. The resource persons for the program were disability-rights experts, specialised trainers, and persons with disabilities in the legal profession. The workshop provided IDIA Scholars with training in assistive technologies, soft skills, practical knowledge required for legal profession, and corporate etiquette.

This event was possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors for the event, Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India Pvt. Ltd.

Accessibility Labs

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. Two “accessibility labs” have been opened in collaboration with IDIA.

1. NLUO – IDIA Accessibility Lab

The lab was inaugurated by the NLUO Vice Chancellor Dr. Srikrishna Deva Rao and IDIA Scholar Saikh Jiyarul Hoque. The lab was equipped with modern equipment like Pearl Camera (used for scanning books and converting them into e-format), Braille Printer, necessary software like Ducksberry, Openbook reader and other supporting software. Read more here.

2. Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer Accessibility Lab at NUJS

In memory of IDIA founder (late) Prof. (Dr.) Shamand Basheer, this lab was inaugurated on 10th February 2020 by Prof. NK Chakrabarti, who was the Vice Chancellor at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS). The lab will be equipped with the latest technological devices such as the Index Basic-D V5 Braille Embosser, Braille Paper Tractor Feed, and the Duxbury Braille Translator. Many of these devices have been funded by IDIA. Read more here

Challenge in High Court

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 examinationRead more.