For successful studies abroad with handicap: HEAG
Studying abroad? A Mission Impossible with a disability, you think? Not necessary – with the Higher Education Accessibility Guide, “L' Auberge Espagnole” becomes a realistic dream.
Surely, this film comedy, which tells about an international student apartment in Barcelona, has made spending a semester at a foreign university palatable to young people. This also applies to students with a handicap.
However, if accessibility is not even fully given in your own country, how could it be possible to study abroad? Such thoughts are in the disabled students’ mind. Usually not without reason.
Study abroad without barriers
However, these thoughts are often unnecessary, for there are indeed universities in Europe that earn the label "accessible", according to the Higher Education Accessibility Guide, HEAG in short. It intends to “help students with disabilities and the professionals that support them to make decisions about possibilities for study programmes and exchange activities.”
Collected Information about studying abroad with a disability
There, an interested student can find information on, for example, how the university system of the target country looks like, what aids he/she has the right to ask for, are available and who the relevant contact persons are. Up to a few countries, this information is already fully available.
Since January 2010, online information is also available on the accessibility of the university buildings and contact details of the Disabled Persons representatives are published. The data is updated every two years.
Calling all universities and colleges
For this, the Federal Association of Disability and Study Association, which is responsible for the German HEAG entries, has invited all the universities to fill in the electronic form with forty relevant questions for disabled students.
Answering these questions will give disabled students worldwide the possibility to obtain, for example, the following information on the Free University of Berlin
“adapted housing is available for students with disabilities” and the auditoriums are equipped with hearing loops. Only the question if “the Institution provides one to one study skills and learning support“ is negated.
Good idea but implementation still needs some work
One flaw: This database cannot easily be found on the homepage. Simply type in "database" in the search box in the top right on the HEAG homepage. Then you can choose the country and language.
Even though the HEAG is still in the early stages and most texts are available in English only, the guide itself is a very good idea. Hopefully, more and more colleges and universities will enter and thus encourage students with disabilities to study a few semesters abroad.
And those who do not want to wait until the universities themselves come up with the idea to register the accessibility of their buildings, they can send the electronic HEAG questionnaire to the University!
Text: TMI 04-2010
Translation: MPL 05-2010