In July 2021, the Office of Learning Support (OLS) observed the completion of five years since its conception.
Built on its experiences and learnings over the years, in 2020-21 the office not only spearheaded various initiatives and campaigns to strengthen its ongoing support to all types of learners at Ashoka, but also steered the increased visibility and recognition of the office across the country through its engagement and collaboration with external stakeholders.
Meaningful conversations around inclusion and diversity within and outside Ashoka initiated the much-needed dialogue around the support systems in the higher education space.
With a commitment to making the campus a home for all, the office worked closely with the Operations team to make all possible amendments to the existing rooms, residence halls, current campus spaces, transport vehicles for students with physical disabilities, more specifically for students with blindness and ones who use wheelchairs. To incorporate similar principles related to infrastructural accessibility, the office has initiated the dialogue with the architects of the new campus to integrate the concept at its design stage.
From an accessible new website to a blind-friendly UG and YIF Application Forms and academic content, the office guided through these processes by collaborating with the Media and Communications, IT and Admissions teams, and outside agencies. To instill the values of inclusion and support amongst the larger student community at Ashoka, the office introduced two new projects: Peer Learning Support Programme (PLSP) and Neurodiversity Initiative. Other activities that furthered the agenda of spreading awareness about specific disabilities included workshops on sign language, neurodiversity, and ableism.
OLS launched its flagship College Readiness Programme that aimed to inculcate the importance of readiness, self-advocacy and self-awareness in school students with disabilities who aspire for higher education in their preferred areas of study. This initiated a nationwide movement calling for the acceptance of neurodiversity and disability across all educational institutions. Reena Gupta, the Director of OLS, was appointed as a national committee member by AICTE to prepare and present policy recommendations on extending support to students with specific learning disabilities in higher education institutions in India.
These engagements have increased the momentum for creating comprehensive support systems for students with disabilities and ensuring their inclusion in higher education institutes in India.
One of the greatest milestones for the OLS this year has been the hosting of first-ever conference on inclusion of students with dyslexia in higher education institutions in India. The virtual conference aimed to spotlight dyslexia through lived experiences, explore its acceptance in HEIs in India and look at its future in the realm of employment. This conference put forth Ashoka University as an educational institute that holds inclusion of all students as one of its core values.
Overall, the year 2020-21 has proved to be a landmark year for the office as we broadened the scope of our reach to the entire country, paving the way for a nationwide movement for inclusion.