Vilnius Gediminas technical university (VILNIUS TECH), together with ATHENA Alliance partner Maria Curie-Sklodowska University (UMCS) (Poland), last week organised a discussion on the inclusion of students with disabilities in arts and sports activities.
During the event, dr. Tomasz Bielecki, the Director of the UMSC Sports Centre, and his colleagues talked about the support system for students with disabilities and how events such as conferences, picnics, sports affairs and trips for students with special needs are organised in their university. Later, the UMCS Association of Students with Disabilities “Alter Idem” shared their experience.
The main discussion focused on individual support for students – from personal assistants to free transport, sign language interpreters, devices (such as laptops, FM hearing systems) to borrow, psychological counselling and university spaces made accessible for everyone. VILNIUS TECH and UMCS also discussed the general support of the whole university community for students with disabilities.
“Disability can be visible or invisible. Sometimes people don’t speak up. But just knowing that there is help available, that university can individually tailor studies, should give a student confidence,” says Miglė Rudytė, coordinator for students with individual needs at VILNIUS TECH.
“I always say that you shouldn’t decide for students. It’s better to ask the student themselves how they feel comfortable. The solutions emerge as to how to change the material and the way of learning to suit the student. For example, if a student has an autistic spectrum disorder and avoids contact with people, they should not be forced to work in a group but be given an individual assignment. Not listening can lead to dissatisfaction with studies and reduced motivation,” says the coordinator.
Both VILNIUS TECH and UMCS universities agree that technology-based solutions and lecturers’ self-learning are crucial parts of the integration of students with special needs. Such good practice events help universities to share best practices and to improve in this area.