Visually Impaired Man Earns PhD From IIM-A, Set To Teach At IIM Bodh Gaya  - Vibes Of India

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Visually Impaired Man Earns PhD From IIM-A, Set To Teach At IIM Bodh Gaya 

| Updated: March 3, 2024 13:15

Tarun Kumar Vashisth, 42, a native of Uttarakhand, who was born blind, has become the first doctor of philosophy (PhD) from the premier B-school with disability wherein he mapped the experience of blind employees in corporates in India. 

Vashisth, is set to take up teaching at IIM Bodh Gaya later this month as an assistant professor – setting another benchmark for the faculties with blindness teaching at ‘non-disabled’ institutions. Experts said that he could well be the first blind full-time professor for any IIMs. 

“I was lucky to have a very supportive family and environment that never made me realize that I had any deficiency – I studied at ‘normal’ school and even studied subjects such as mathematics which are not generally opted by students with blindness,” he said. 

After my BSc degree, I cleared the entrance exam in general quota for IIT Roorkee. When I was called for an interview, the administration realized I was blind and was refused admission citing that I would not be able to cope with the study requirements,” says Tarun Kumar Vashisth. He persisted and got admission in IIM-A for the doctoral programme under general category in 2018. “The programme started in 1971 but I became the first candidate with a disability to get admission. It was a new experience for me and the institute. PhD is an individualistic journey where I need to explore documents daily,” says Vashisth. 

The presentation-based teaching for doctoral students was tweaked so that he could refer to it again. “The institute provides a scribe to write exams, but one needs to refer to the case repeatedly to answer questions related to case study method. After my request, I was allowed a tablet for the purpose,” he says. “A person like me needs a text-to-speech and optical character recognition system. The system was there in the library, but in a noisy area. The administration shifted it to a quiet spot. The place gave me motivation to overcome all odds.” 

His study in human resources management domain was on ‘Ableism and employment of persons with disabilities: Organizational socialization of employees with blindness’, a topic close to his heart. His advisory committee comprised Prof Rajesh Chandwani, Prof Rajat Sharma and Prof Sushil Nifadkar. 

Vashisth says the biggest takeaway is organizational response to a blind person. “We categorised the response in three systems: the first where a person is treated as a ‘quota’ and not given meaningful work, the second where the managers take some initiative to assimilate them, and the third where the blind employees realize their potential through full participation. They get work they are good at and improve the organization’s productivity.” 

The concept of ableism can be understood in context of processes and systems not taking into consideration persons with disabilities, he said, adding: “The research indicated that blind employees gave their best in all three systems to ensure they are considered productive. I hope the research helps blind employees to get more opportunities.” 

Prof Chandwani said, “Vashisth successfully completed the rigorous work for a doctoral student despite all odds. It proves that with the right environment, a student with a disability can achieve academic heights.” 

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