A 34-year-old woman,once a promising sportsperson who had to give it all up after becoming a quadriplegic following an accident,was allegedly denied admission by Madras University to a masters course through distance education as the 15-day mandatory contact classes are held on the third floor of the building.
Preethi Srinivasan,34,was a former captain of the Tamil Nadu under-19 cricket team,the only one to lead the state team to the national championships in 1997.
She was also a champion swimmer,having won a state gold in 50 m breaststroke and silver in other events. But all that was before July 11,1998,when she met with an accident that injured her spinal cord and left her paralysed.
My friends approached the Madras University for admission for me for M.Sc counselling psychology through distance education. However,the staff at the department said it is mandatory for all students to attend the 15-day contact classes,which are being held in the third floor classroom. Which means I am not eligible, said Preethi.
This is not the first time she was denied admission citing the same reason. As she was recovering from the shock of her accident,Preethi and her father sought admission for B.Sc psychology in 2001-02. They approached Madras University,Annamalai University and Bharathiar University,but all three rejected her request for exemption and denied admission due to her inability to attend contact classes.
It was impossible for me to attend classes at that time as I was yet to recuperate completely. My father was sad and angry,and advised me to study on my own to gain knowledge,not degrees. I somehow managed to secure admission to B.Sc medical sociology which was to close to psychology that I originally wanted to do, she said.
Srinivasan,an electrical engineer who was working in the US with an MNC,stood by his daughter,encouraging her to face her fate head on. But in 2007,Srinivasan died following a cardiac arrest,leaving Preethi and her mother to fend for themselves.
I was daddys girl until then. He was my portal to the outside world. Since his death,I realised that I had to assume more responsibilities. That is why I again attempted for a masters degree admission, she said.
Taking up the issue,lawyer Sanjay Pinto said if the allegation was true,rejecting admission to a student on the basis of disability is discriminatory and a violation of Section 46 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities,Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act,1995. The section mandates that there should not be discrimination in the built environment,and authorities should take measures to improve building designs to include ramps,adapting toilets among others.
The university building does not have ramps or lifts as it is a very old structure. But the authorities can surely shift a classroom,that too only for 15 days,for the sake of a deserving candidate, he said.
University registrar G Koteswara Prasad said he was unaware of the issue and assured he would look into it immediately.
Education for me is no longer about employment. I want to show society and those with disabilities that there are a lot of avenues that are still open for us. But to do this,I need the support of the university, said Preethi.