November 26, 2015 Izidor Bjelopoljak

Support for students with disabilities (practical case of Limburg Catholic University College – KHLim

The project “Support for students with disabilities” aims to enable disabled students to fully participate and enrol in academic activities. Therefore not only financial aid is
provided but also the smallest details (e.g. payment of gestures or typist hours) to lower the barriers are implemented. Remarkable is that also learning and psychiatric disabilities are taken into account.

Objectives of the Intervention

This project aims at students with impairments that limit their ability to participate in academic activities. The groups of disabilities include hearing impairments, vision impairments, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, learning disabilities (including dyslexia, dyscalculia …), psychiatric disabilities (including Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).

Project promotes equal opportunities and full participation in higher education for students with disabilities. It is specialized in taking actions to remove any obstacle which undermines the full participation. This means that project encourages disabled people to make the most of their living, learning and employment opportunities.

In order to assist their studying experience, living accommodation guidance and financial support are given as well as psychosocial support advice and guidance in educational matters. The project also aims at supporting and encouraging low income students and other under-represented groups in higher education as well as at reducing the barriers towards higher education. In the end, it also looks to low income students and other under-represented groups in order to support and encourage equality of opportunity through the provision of clear and accessible financial information for students, their parents/caretakers and advisers.

The main purpose of the project is to strengthen the social character of the university colleges and promote equal access and participation. Student service offices pursue that objective by providing financial and social services as well as giving opportunities to every student regardless his cultural and financial background.

Origins and rationale of this initiative

The main idea came through a project called SIHO - Support Centre for Inclusive Higher Education. On July 18th 2008 minister Vandenbroucke signed on behalf of the Flemish Government an agreement with the consortium University College West-Flanders, Ghent University and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. That was the start of SIHO (the Support Centre for Inclusive Higher Education) for a period of 5 years (September 2008 till August 2013). On May 1st 2010 the agreement was extended with the Antwerp University and the University College of Limburg covering a period of three years, from May 1st 2010 till August 31st 2013.

Based on this initiative, the project was implemented across the Flemish university colleges.

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

Students with disabilities are the primary target group. The groups of disabilities include hearing impairments, vision impairments, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, learning disabilities (including dyslexia, dyscalculia …), psychiatric disabilities (including Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).

In order to successfully implement the project, it includes several financing schemes, as well as staff who are trained to assist students with their different needs. They are as well assisted in their studying process.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

This has been mostly described in the section 3. On July 18th 2008 minister Vandenbroucke signed on behalf of the Flemish Government an agreement with the consortium University College West-Flanders, Ghent University and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. That was the start of SIHO (the Support Centre for Inclusive Higher Education) for a period of 5 years (September 2008 till August 2013). On May 1st 2010 the agreement was extended with the Antwerp University and the University College of Limburg covering a period of three years, from May 1st 2010 till August 31st 2013.

This shows that the initiative has the necessary support from range of stakeholders, starting from the governmental side, all the way to the leaders of the higher education institutions across the region of Flanders.

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

The support system includes several methods:

  • GON guidance (Integrated Education);
  • payment of gestures or typist hours, enlarged copies, ICT equipment that can be used in your school, through the Special Education Resources Unit of the Ministry of Education and Training;
  • technical and substantive support (tutoring) reimbursed by the Flemish Agency for Persons with Disabilities (VAPH) ;
  • Material or financial support from institution or social service / student services.

The methods are being developed in 3 different fields:

1.   Culture for inclusion

We want to make people familiar with inclusion. We want them to reflect on how it is to study with a disability. We want to make them aware of their own vision on disability.

Several actions will aim at this goal:
We will develop workshop ‘disability awareness’.
We will develop a tool with portraits of students with a disability.
We will continue doing research on students’ perspective.

2.   Structure for inclusion

July 2nd 2009 Belgium ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The rights for education and reasonable adjustments are important aspects in the convention. We wish to facilitate the application of the UN convention in higher education institutions.

Several actions will aim at this goal:

Publications about reasonable adjustments in higher education.

We will initiate and negotiate the application of the UN Convention in higher education institutions.

3.  Inclusive practice

This field consists of two parts:

First we want to make faculty aware of the competencies they can use for inclusive higher education. Several actions will aim at this goal:

  • A guide with tips for faculty and staff about support for students with a disability.
  • Scientific research on the experiences of faculty in higher education.
  • Secondly we want to make learning accessible. Several actions will aim at this goal:
  • We will develop tips to make optimal use of digital learning environments for students with a disability
  • We will explore with different actors the needs and possibilities for providing digital material.

Example of KHLim

In the example of Limburg Catholic University College  (KHLim) the procedure of support for students with disabilities is explained. KHLim offers an adapted support based on personal needs of students with following disabilities:

  • Chronic disease (epilepsy)
  • Learning disorder (dyslexia, dyscalculia)
  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Visual or motor problem

The KHLim tries to offer all students as much as possible chances to achieve their full potential. That’s why University College is making extra effort for students with disabilities. Each student who wants to enjoy that special support from the institution has to follow next steps:

Step 1: information beforehand

KHLim recommends collecting as much as possible information concerning the faculty where student wants to study.  Depending on the disability, some competences linked to one of the courses can impossibly be achieved and can change the study choice drastically. That’s why it’s strongly advisable to pass by for a talk in the Institution before enrolling in institution. In case if the student has ASD (autism spectrum disorder), he/she can get study choice advice in a framework of  kompASS  programme

Step 2: Application for recognition certificate

Once the student is enrolled in the institution, the procedure of recognition can start. The student contacts care-coordinator and submits needed evidence. After the submission, student discusses the possibilities with the mentor who evaluates and makes final decision. Two weeks after the final decision is made, student receives a letter with information concerning the recognition. If the decision is positive, the student gets the recognition certificate including an overview of all facilities and support provided by the institution. The evaluation report is saved in a closed envelope and is only accessible for the care-coordinator.

Step 3: Coaching contract

When the recognition certificate is approved, the student contacts care-coach of the faculty. The care-coach and care-coordinator draft the coaching contract taking into account all possible extern partners.  In this contract all rights and duties are mentioned. Thus all misunderstandings and protests can be avoided. This contract is valid for one year.

Offered support and facilities are based on personal needs depending on the courses student is following. Following facilities can be offered to the student based on his/her needs:

  • Facilities direct linked to education and exams
  • Facilities indirect linked to studies as utilisation of media materials  and other equipment
  • Facilities related to activities as transportation from and to the campus, sport, accessibility of buildings…

Step 4: Implementation and follow-up/ monitoring of the coaching contract

Care-coach and other persons involved are responsible for the implementation and monitoring of coaching contract. Student is supposed to fulfill the responsibilities mentioned in the contract and in case of issues, student has to inform the care-coach immediately.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

There is no registration across institutions, there are no figures available.

Resources used in the initiative

Each institution taking part has allocated certain resources in the project, including the support of the government of Flanders.

Besides staff costs, several ICT products have been purchased in order to stimulate the education process of students with disabilities.

The costs are well justifiable and the public as well as the sector are well supportive of this initiative.

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

There is no registration across institutions, there are no figures available.

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