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‘Today, I feel truly equal to all other students’: Visually impaired student gives online exam at SPPU using text to audio technology

A visually impaired student gave an online exam at Savitribai Phule Pune University on Tuesday using the text to audio format enabled by a slew of assistive technologies.

Written by Alifiya Khan | Pune |
May 18, 2021 11:22:52 pm
First semester exams (October-November 2020) are underway at SPPU and are expected to go on for another week.

A visually impaired student gave an online exam at Savitribai Phule Pune University on Tuesday using the text to audio format enabled by a slew of assistive technologies.

First semester exams (October-November 2020) are underway at SPPU and are expected to go on for another week. Before the commencement of exams, the university had conducted mock tests to get students acquainted with the exam format. But during the mock exams, many students with disabilities had said they were unable to log to the system, let alone attempt the exams. The university had then requested students to opt for a writer, saying that the time taken to make requisite software changes would be too long.

However, unwilling to take a writer for exams, a final year BA LLB student of ILS Law College, Yuvraj Zanzade, petitioned the university for his equal right to appear for the exams unassisted.

Mahesh Kakade, director, board of examins and evaluations at SPPU, said, “Actually his demand was fair, we knew that. Of course, we have to ensure accessibility to all students but it was going to take a lot of time to make software changes and we were worried about delays. But this student wrote to us saying what if his writer has Covid infection and he gets it or vice versa? We learnt that he even approached the National Association for Blind to seek solutions. That’s when we decided that we will take this up. It is good because the accessibility problem is solved, which means the same technology can now be used for other students, too,” he said.

On Tuesday, Zanzade used a screen reader to write the first of his four papers through the online exam portal of the university.

“In my college, they used to give me an assistant who used to read the questions and I would type out the answers on my laptop and later they would take a printout and submit it. However, due to the pandemic, I think it’s risky to have another person as assistant or writer. Besides, during the mock exam, I could log on to system but when I accessed the question paper, it appeared to be blank. I frantically contacted college authorities who put me in touch with university officials. They made a Zoom call to understand the exact issue I was facing, I showed them my screen and they contacted technical experts to resolve it. I am grateful they took the effort but today, I feel that I am truly equal to all other students,” said Zanzade.

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