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Making Education Inclusive

Founded in 2016, Office of Learning Support works in collaboration with several departments to make life and learning at Ashoka University inclusive and accessible right from the time of outreach to the time the student graduates.

Deepak Vamsi Rajavarapu

4 June, 2021 | 4m read

A university is a space for free learning, living and expression. To this end, a university then has to be malleable and open to moulding and remoulding itself in a manner that each member of the community is able to access it, engage with it and make it their own. Since its inception, Ashoka University has been walking this talk. It adopted and has been actioning a multi-pronged approach towards inclusion. The collective vision, intent and collaboration of Ashoka’s varied, unique and dedicated offices makes it possible to provide all the appropriate means, resources, services, support and safety net to its students. With that vision, the Office of Learning Support (OLS) was founded in 2016 to support students with disabilities. 

Inclusive Admission Process 

The Office of Learning Support works in collaboration with several departments at Ashoka right from the time of outreach to the time the student graduates from Ashoka. OLS supports the members of the outreach team from across India to reach out to different organizations, and schools for students with disabilities. They also work very closely with the Admissions team, providing unique applicant-specific support at various stages of the Application, Admissions and Assessment processes, as needed. Once offers of admission are made and accepted, the admissions team connects incoming students, who need special learning assistance to the OLS team, prior to their arrival on campus. The OLS also contributes meaningfully to the Academic Bridge Programme, which is hosted annually for incoming students who need help with the English language, and academic reading and writing. 

“The Admissions team is grateful for the constant guidance we receive from the Office of Learning Support (OLS). Over the years, we have had applicants with various learning disabilities, including some with physical disabilities that affect or inform their learning styles and abilities. Since the OLS is not only warmly welcoming of students with all kinds of needs but also offers continuous academic support to them on campus, we at the Office of Admissions feel confident in giving all deserving students the opportunity to study at Ashoka University. Our common vision and passion to make the Ashoka community more diverse and inclusive deeply connects the OLS with the Office of Admissions.” Mercia Prince, Office of Admissions

Inclusive Campus 

The OLS brings new knowledge, best practices and awareness in the field of ableism. Through its continuous support, guidance, feedback, training and sensitisation of ground staff, the OLS has enabled the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) to recognise and address specific needs of differently abled students. The OSA and OLS  with their larger scope and structure are deeply committed and continuously working towards reducing social, intellectual, emotional, financial and physical accessibility barriers through all their programmes for a well-rounded outside the classroom experience which includes 24×7 pastoral care and emergency response system in the Residence Halls, creating an ergonomic dorm access, designing and contributing to transition initiatives such as Academic Bridge Programme and Resident Assistant (RA) Programme with a team of highly trained RAs and RA Mentors as peer first-responders and go-to support on every floor of Residence Halls.

“ To me personally, this collaborative journey of working with students across a wide spectrum of learning, ableism and social context has been self-awakening, humbling and enriching. My first experience of a student with disability disrupted my status quo and pushed me further into the space of learning by unlearning. Over a period of time, working closely with them has helped me hone my listening skills, become more open, mindful and continuously reflect upon and check my privileges. Most importantly, this helped surface and drive my passion for diversity and inclusion at Ashoka.” – Rashmi Singh, Office of Student Life

OLS also works closely with the infrastructure team and helps them in designing the structure of rooms, conducting accessible audits of the entire campus and have been working towards providing inputs to make all physical space fully accessible to all students, staff, and faculty members with disabilities. 

Inclusive Education 

Ashoka University has created a significant benchmark with its policy on inclusion, teaching all types of learners with and without disabilities. OLS works together with the Office of Academic Affairs, Faculty and Teaching Assistants to address all academic-related concerns and provides accommodations to the students with disabilities throughout the course of the semester. They also organized information sessions regarding course selection and clarification for students with English Language Needs. 

They also conduct meetings with the faculty and TAs to discuss the specific academic needs of students in their classes. Their engagement with the faculty is extremely crucial to make a fruitful academic experience for students with disabilities on campus. 

OLS works towards creating an efficient and inclusive space in the university for students with disabilities which includes physical disabilities, learning disabilities, autism spectrum, English Language learners and deficient executive functioning skills. They hold meetings and appointments with students regularly to understand and resolve their concerns. 

“Initially when I joined Ashoka, I was afraid about how I would cope with Ashoka’s academic curriculum and culture, especially because I was required to use English frequently. Although I knew English was an easy language, I feared that I may not be as good as the experienced English speakers. I tried not to lose hope, and made use of every available opportunity to get better at the language. The OLS has continuously encouraged me and helped me in many ways to defeat the fear of language. Many many thanks to the OLS :)” – Undergraduate Student, Class of 2020

“The OLS team are good listeners. From time to time, when I just needed to vent, they welcomed me. The best part is the no appointment system, which ensures complete approachability and freedom to speak about anything whenever a student feels the need. I am truly grateful to the OLS for giving me the support during my difficult times here, and I recommend it to those who need support of any kind, not just related to learning disabilities but, even organization, understanding and improving the quality of work.” – Undergraduate Student, Class of 2020

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