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State-of-the-art Prof Shamnad Basheer Accessibility Lab is born at NUJS by IDIA

Basheer had passed away in August last year, project was conceived in September

In memoriam: Shamnad Basheer Accessibility Lab at NUJS
In memoriam: Shamnad Basheer Accessibility Lab at NUJS

Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA), the charitable trust founded by the late Prof Shamnad Basheer, has tied up with the college where he used to teach for the longest time - NUJS Kolkata - to set up the Prof (Dr) Shamnad Basheer Accessibility Lab.

The lab would “foster greater inclusion of students with disabilities”, according to IDIA’s press release, and had been announced in September 2019 and inaugurated on 10 February 2020 by vice chancellor (VC) Prof NK Chakrabarti and Basheer’s father, MM Basheer (a video of the ceremony has been uploaded to YouTube)

Access and accessibility had always been subjects close to Basheer’s heart, both in IDIA as well as in his work on copyrights law (including legal aspects to making books accessible to those with visual impairments).

Basheer had passed away in August of last year.

IDIA director (operations) Swati Agrawal explained about the lab: “It’s a space with state-of-the-art technology that students with visual impairment can use.”

It is equipped with “the latest technological devices such as the Index Basic-D V5 Braille Embosser, Braille Paper Tractor Feed, and the Duxbury Braille Translator,” according to IDIA, many of which had been funded by IDIA.

A room that had recently been renovated at NUJS was provided free of charge by the university and would be used for the lab, which includes NUJS faculty member and assistant professor Dr Tilottama Raychaudhuri as faculty advisor.

The lab has state-of-the-art tech to help students with visual impairments
The lab has state-of-the-art tech to help students with visual impairments

It is understood that NUJS is providing some funding in addition to the room, while the rest of funding was coming from IDIA.

Raychaudhuri explained that the lab was open to all NUJS students who would benefit from it, irrespective of official disability quota status or other factors.

“Non-NUJS students with disability can use the lab with permission from IDIA and NUJS,” added Agrawal.

Four to five students were currently using the lab, said Raychaudhuri, before the novel coronavirus-related shut-down of pretty much all law schools. “We will know better [figures] in a couple of months and depending on the number we will expand it... We have kept extra space outside the lab which may be used for expansion.”

While the lab would would not do research into accessibility and disability rights at present, Raychaudhuri said that this could be a later goal of the centre.

IDIA noted in its press release:

This lab is a fitting tribute to Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer who started IDIA with the aim to promote greater diversity, inclusion and accessibility in law schools and beyond. The IDIA Disability Access Program, a national vertical of IDIA, advocates for systemic changes in law schools and the wider legal ecosystem to make our spaces more accessible for persons with disabilities. To that end, IDIA has collaborated with Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India Pvt (SPND) to organize two workshops relating to accessibility, one in Bangalore and one in Mumbai. Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer had also taught in NUJS. It is heart warming to see both the organisations join hands for this wonderful initiative. We hope to see many more law schools follow suit!

IDIA is “a pan-India movement to train underprivileged students and help transform them into leading lawyers and community advocates” that is “premised on the notion that access to premier legal education empowers marginalized communities and helps them help themselves”.

If you are interested in supporting IDIA or donating towards the project, more is available on its website.

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