Top
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Columns

In Praise Of The CLAT Consortium: A Visually Challenged Candidates Lens

Yash Dodani & Eeshan Sonak
29 July 2021 6:50 AM GMT
In Praise Of The CLAT Consortium: A Visually Challenged Candidates Lens
x

Last year, LiveLaw carried our article titled 'Making CLAT Accessible To Visually Challenged Aspirants' where we reviewed previous years' CLAT exam papers and pointed out how many of the questions were created without keeping in mind the interests of visually challenged candidates. We identified these questions as being of the following types: visual logic, tabular arrangements,...

Your free access to Live Law has expired
To read the article, get a premium account.
    Your Subscription Supports Independent Journalism
Subscription starts from
599+GST
(For 6 Months)
Premium account gives you:
  • Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.
  • Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.
Already a subscriber?

Last year, LiveLaw carried our article titled 'Making CLAT Accessible To Visually Challenged Aspirants' where we reviewed previous years' CLAT exam papers and pointed out how many of the questions were created without keeping in mind the interests of visually challenged candidates. We identified these questions as being of the following types: visual logic, tabular arrangements, seating arrangements, positional reasoning, charts, and questions that required lengthy rough work and complicated calculations. We argued that such questions place visually challenged aspirants at a disadvantageous footing not only vis-à-vis their able-bodied counterparts, but also vis-à-vis other aspirants from the PwD category.

Today, amidst criticism on several other fronts, we must take a moment to appreciate the progress that has been made on this front. The CLAT 2021 exam that took place on the 23rd of July had no questions of the types mentioned above, and it was extremely accessible to visually challenged candidates.

Last year, at the International Summit on Legal Professionals with Disabilities, Justice DY Chandrachud spoke about how CLAT places disabled test takers in a disadvantaged position, and perpetrates exclusion of some of the most talented students. Responding to this, the President of the NLU Consortium, Prof. Faizan Mustafa thanked Justice Chandrachud for raising this pertinent issue and gave his assurances that the Consortium will consider alternative questions in CLAT 2021 for visually challenged candidates. Although PwD candidates did not have alternative questions this year, the paper itself was designed in a way that accommodated the unique challenges that visually disabled test-takers faced. In effect, this achieves nearly the same result.

The exclusion that persons with disabilities faced in prior CLAT examinations due to questions that they could not solve was an exclusion from society at large. By providing accessible questions to persons with disabilities, the Consortium is furthering the Object of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 which safeguards the dignity of persons with disabilities and strives to make the environment accessible for them. It is heartening to see this accommodation being made, and it is important to acknowledge this progress.

Before we analyze the question paper from the lens of a visually disabled candidate, it is important to mention that the overall analysis of the paper suggests that the difficulty level of the questions was easy to moderate. A noteworthy aspect of this year's paper is the logical reasoning section, which did not have a single tabular arrangement question. All the questions were passage-based and involved verbal logic skills which are comparatively much more accessible for visually challenged candidates, as they do not require the use of pen and paper for rough work. In almost all the previous CLAT exams that have been conducted, at least one tabular arrangement question has been asked. Here is an example of a passage from CLAT 2021 which contained five questions:




All other questions in the Logical Reasoning Section were similar to this, and needed proper reading of the passage and concluding something from the passage to come to an answer. Thus, the Consortium has done great work in the logical reasoning section while keeping the challenges of inaccessibility in mind.

Coming to the Quantitative Techniques section, the exam did not feature any questions which contain graphical or visual skills. All the questions which were featured in the section were passage-based and seem to be solvable for a person with visual impairment. One such question is quoted below:

Though these questions require some amount of rough work, the candidate with visual impairment can at least attempt the question, especially when compared to the questions involving graphs or visual figures which are completely inaccessible for visually impaired candidates.

Before concluding, one point needs to be flagged as the way forward. The Consortium needs to have well-settled rules for ensuring scribes for persons with disabilities. In 2019, when we answered the CLAT exam, the Consortium first notified us that they will provide their own scribe and that the candidates will not be allowed to bring their own scribes. This notification was modified only a day prior to the exam. One of us (Yash) speaks from personal experience of how difficult it was to arrange a scribe at the eleventh hour. The change was perhaps a result of numerous representations made to the Consortium requesting permission to be allowed to bring one's own scribe. Scribes and candidates need to form an understanding with each other of the pace of reading questions, and the other such aspects that ensure a smooth experience in the exam hall. Typically, this is developed over weeks of practice in writing mock exams. Therefore, allowing candidates to bring their own scribe is essential, and the decision taken by the Consortium was a welcome one, however, it should have been taken sooner so as to give candidates sufficient time to make the necessary arrangements.

This year, the Consortium asked persons with disabilities to get a certificate from Chief Medical Officer just a week before the exam. The Disability Certificate should have been enough to prove the same. Even if the Consortium may have felt the need to collect a certificate to that effect, the guidelines ought to have been released well in advance, so as to give enough time to candidates to arrange for it. The requirement of a certificate from a Chief Medical Officer must have been especially difficult for those living in rural areas. During the last week, students should be more focused on the exam preparation rather than collecting documents to be eligible to sit in the exam.

Still, the Consortium's effort in trying to ensure accessibility in the CLAT 2021 paper cannot be undermined. Our point on the need to have settled rules for scribes should be seen as the way forward. Thus, amidst all the controversies revolving around CLAT 2021, the Consortium deserves to be praised for making a very accessible paper for visually challenged candidates. If the Consortium in the future wants to have graphical or visual questions, the Consortium should provide alternative questions to visually challenged candidates so as to ensure accessibility. We hope that other competitive law entrance exams like AILET, MHCET, etc. also follows the model set by CLAT 2021.

Views are personal.

Next Story
Share it