PANAJI: Directorate of Social Welfare in association with the Office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities took a step towards fostering inclusivity and equal access to education by organizing an orientation session on school accessibility.
The event was held with the primary goal of empowering Field Assistants and Field Workers to conduct on-ground accessibility surveys in over 450 schools.
The core objective of the orientation session was to ensure that schools within the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Education adhered to the accessibility guidelines outlined in the National Education Policy (NEP). Through this measure, the Directorate aimed to identify areas for improvement and make schools more inclusive and accessible for all students, including those with disabilities.
Minister of Social Welfare, Subhash Phal Dessai; State Commissioner for Disabilities, Guruprasad Pawaskar; Director of Social Welfare, Ajit Panchawadkar; Deputy Director, Manish Kedar, and Assistant Professor in Psychiatric Social Work, Sudesh Gaude were present at the inaugural ceremony of the event. Also present were Stany Dsouza, Patrick D’Souza, Melvin Mendes, Moises Rodrigues, Ruki Ahmed and Vishant Nagvekar
The inauguration began with a brief introduction to the workshop, followed by an address from Minister Subhash Phaldesai. He urged the field workers to go beyond their regular duties and work in order to translate policies and decisions into tangible improvements on the ground. “We are committed to making Goa a model state for inclusive education. Our field workers are the backbone of our efforts, and we appreciate their hard work and dedication. We hope that this orientation session will equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to conduct effective accessibility surveys in schools and ensure that no child is left behind,” said Subhash Phal Dessai, Minister for Social Welfare
“Accessibility is not a privilege, but a right. We want to ensure that every student in Goa has equal access to quality education, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. This orientation session is a crucial step towards achieving this goal, and we are grateful to our field workers for their enthusiasm and participation. We look forward to seeing the results of their surveys and implementing the necessary changes in schools,” said Guruprasad Pawaskar, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.
The Accessibility Consultant, Abhijit Murugkar, appointed by the State Commissioner for Personal Disabilities, highlighted the success of past initiatives, such as the Purple Fest Goa 2023, and the recently announced International Purple Fest 24, underscoring the importance of accessibility initiatives in Goa.
The two-day session, conceptualized and conducted by the NGO “Design Bridge Diversity and Inclusion Foundation” from Pune, focused on equipping the participants with essential surveying skills. Trainers Abhijeet Murugkar and Arundhati Gupta guided the field workers, imparting knowledge and best practices to ensure effective accessibility surveys.
During the orientation session, Sudesh Gaude led the first session, educating participants on 21 types of disabilities. Abhijit Murugkar conducted the second session, introducing technical standards like tactile tiles and accessible toilets. The participants empathized with wheelchair users during a simulation exercise. An open dialogue allowed the field workers to share their experiences and field data, fine-tuning the accessibility survey implementation. Sessions by disability rights activist Prakash Kamat and practical surveys at a school premises in Porvorim were also held.