Equality News 4

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A publication of the DARe-Learning project

Issue 3 (4)/2013

In this issue: Academic debate “About equality without going to extremes”


Is social change possible in Poland?



My “other” language course: English for hard of hearing and deaf students at the Jagiellonian University


(Non-) or disabled education? Teaching students with disabilities: an academic teacher’s perspective

DARe-Learning: distance learning about equality


Academic lesson in equality


Integration through school and work, a fact or a myth?


Editorial team: Anna Barcik, Ireneusz Białek, Marta Bylica, Dagmara Nowak-Adamczyk, Małgorzata Perdeus Typesetting and makeup: Marta Bylica Cover design: Przemysław Stachyra Translation: Mikołaj Sekrecki and Dagmara Wolska The publication based on a Creative Commons license – Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivative Works 3.0 Poland (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL) Publisher: Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service ul. Retoryka 1/210, 31-108 Kraków, Poland phone: (0048) 12 424 29 50, fax: (0048) 12 424 29 52, e-mail: bon@uj.edu.pl www.bon.uj.edu.pl www.DAReLearning.eu ISBN: 978-83-62600-20-5 (issue 3 (4)/2013), 978-83-62600-11-3 (issues 1-4) Free copy The electronic version available at www.DAReLearning.eu Published under the auspices of the Polish Ombudsman.

This publication is related to a project carried out with financial support of the European Commission as part of the Lifelong Learning programme. This publication reflects the views of its author only and neither the European Commission nor the National Agency shall bear any liability for its substance or the way the information contained herein may be used.

From the editor

All around us, there is a lot of potential which people find in themselves as a result of various circumstances and then get together for the benefit of those in need. Good will seems boundless in this respect, which lets me believe in society. Yet in the case of such actions there must always be someone who will tap into such abundant sources of good will, an institution or a person. And I have always wondered to what a degree the University is a place which facilitates the good use of that potential for the benefit of others. If that is the case indeed, fair enough, and if much should be done for it to truly be such a place, let us do it together. Professor Andrzej Mania Jagiellonian University Vice-Rector for Education


quality News” (Polish original “Wiadomości o Równości”) is a series of four publications prepared and developed by four eminent European academic centres: the Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Pierre and Marie Curie University of Paris, Charles University of Prague and Aristotle University from Thessaloniki. They all collaborate as the DARe-Learning partnership, aiming to increase the participation of disabled persons in knowledge society through their university education. The publications are designed to make the academic community more familiar with the notion of equal treatment of persons with disabilities as well as to ensure their full access to education, taking into account the consequences of disability. Understanding such an approach and familiar with the articles offered by the DARe-Learning partnership, educators have now the opportunity to considerably improve their professional qualifications and learn about solutions which will make their daily toolbox better equipped; what is more, they can develop such solutions themselves. The subjects and articles presented in the series contain reader-friendly explanations of the provisions of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, a document ratified by all the DARe-Learning partnership countries (France, Greece, Czech Republic, and Poland). The Convention was drafted on the basis of profound understanding of the principle of empowerment and independence of persons with disabilities as regards taking decision concerning their own lives. The contributions published here show that the implementation of what is enshrined in the Convention is good and needed as it supports the development of civil society, social economy, tolerance, and democratic values. In the fourth issue of “Equality News”, the last in the series, we focus particularly on showcasing cooperation between academic teachers and the Disability Support Service in preparing adaptations of the educational process. The previous issues of the publication, in turn, highlighted collaboration between the Service and the students. And so “Equality News” has covered all the aspects of cooperation in the “academic triangle” shedding some light on all the areas we know where there is good practice already and those where still much must be done. It must also be clearly stressed that despite some problem areas, the Jagiellonian University is an example of a school which is open and friendly towards persons with various disabilities. This is also the case in several other Krakow-based universities and those elsewhere. A major change has taken placed when compared with the 1990s, when first such units were being opened at Polish universities. Now is the time to focus on reforms at the lower levels of the educational system and the labour market, so that the social model of perceiving disability could be fully implemented. It seems that universities have already done their homework in that regard and can share their experiences with other partners. It will be then easier to make social change happen, the social change mentioned by the Polish Ombudsman Professor Irena Lipowicz in her speech published here. I believe that the series of publications entitled “Equality News”, together with the www.DAReLearning.eu, KonstelacjaLwa.pl and DotknijKultury.pl portals, make yet another building brick in this joint effort towards social change and that in this way the Jagiellonian University can share its knowledge and know-how with all those who wish to use it. Ireneusz Białek The Jagiellonian University of Krakow DARe-Learning project coordinator

Academic debate

„About equality

without going to extremes” The debate took place on 10 October 2013 at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. In this last issue of “Equality News” we publish the speeches delivered during the event by the Polish Ombudsman Professor Irena Lipowicz and Professor Andrzej Mania, the JU Vice-Rector for Education. We also invite the readers to visit www.DAReLearning.eu/debata, where they will find a wealth of audiovisual materials related to the discussion. The debate was held thanks to passionate involvement of the JU DSS team as well as staff at the Office of the Polish Ombudsman. The Disability Support Service at the Jagiellonian University saw its vibrant development in 2005– 2008, when the Vice-Rector responsible for Education was Professor Maria Szewczyk. It was then that a cooperation agreement was signed between the Jagiellonian University and Aarhus University (Denmark), launching a unique platform for experience exchange and staff training. The decisions taken back then bear fruit still today, a fact mentioned by Professor Andrzej Zoll in his laudation speech as Professor Maria Szewczyk received a silver Plus ratio quam vis medal. While congratulating the former Vice-Rector on such a rare and splendid distinction, one should emphasise the perseverance with which the Jagiellonian University has been pursuing the road delineated back then by collaborating with a number of eminent academic centres, a fact touched upon in the speech by Professor Andrzej Mania. Without such cooperation it would have been much more difficult to develop such a broad offer for persons with disabilities, which is so well in harmony with what we read in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Developing this cooperation, the DSS team remains grateful to Professor Maria Szewczyk and Professor Willy Aastrup of Aarhus University for having engaged in initial talks about equality without going to extremes in a true spirit of the Convention as one can say today. (ed.)

photography by Jerzy Sawicz

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Professor Willy Aastrup at the conference “Disability Awareness – New Challenges for Education”, 2009


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Professor Maria Szewczyk receives the Jubilee Book, 2013

photography by Aleksandra Piłat, All in UJ

n w ó r „O z sk

Speech by the Jagiellonian University Vice-rector for Education Professor Andrzej Mania delivered during the academic debate “About equality without going to extremes” held at the Jagiellonian University on 10 October 2013

Let me proudly say that here at the Jagiellonian University we do a lot to ensure equality and meeting standards in this regard as required by EU legislation. Yet it is something else that seems more important: the fact that the level of equality awareness remains very high. To be sure, the Disability Support Service has played a vital role here, but I also always say that it is Ireneusz [Białek, Head of the JU DSS, ed.] who has taught me what to do about equality, how to talk about it and to be as open as possible embracing equality. This is something I appreciate and something I wish to thank him for in person, yet it is also true for the entire University.

i c ś o n jności” Obviously, we are not the only ones active in that field, we enjoy vibrant international cooperation. I would like to draw your particular attention to our collaboration with such European universities as the Charles University of Prague and Aristotle University from Thessaloniki or Pierre and Marie Curie University of Paris as well as other institutions whose representatives I have met in my office. This broad international cooperation has inspired us to work better towards attaining European standards in educational support for persons with disabilities. I wish to point out that one of the latest impressive examples of such activities is a programme focused on supporting persons with mentalhealth difficulties known as “Constellation Leo”. Such things are admittedly difficult; they require sill, sensitivity and high competences. As much as we can, we are going to develop and continue such activities as they have massively resonated across the academic community and I think it just shows that the University approaches the issue in the right fashion. I would wish for us all in this community to understand that the University is a place where rights should be exercised which ensure equal treatment for all the students and staff. After all the University is an institution operating within society. There are many socially responsible institutions and the University should be one of such, systematically improving the system so that equality becomes part of daily life. In actual fact, debates on equality held at the University improve the awareness of the notion in the academic community as well as make it more understandable in many other areas of social life.

photography by Jerzy Sawicz

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Professor Andrzej Mania, JU Vice-Rector for Education during his speech

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Is social change possible in Poland? Speech by the Polish Ombudsman Professor Irena Lipowicz delivered during the academic debate “About equality without going to extremes” held at the Jagiellonian University on 10 October 2013

n w ó r „O z sk Is social change needed?

Society is a huge and heavy cruiser that finds it very difficult to move. All attempts aiming to accelerate its movement in an ill-advised way may bring consequences contrary to expectations. Thus, the key question that needs to be asked is whether we really need social change. Maybe the opposite is true and social change has already occurred while our task is only to strengthen some trends. Or maybe it is happening too fast, in an insufferable way, leaving us with the sensation of excess and resistance from the rest of society. Another problem is whether we really should focus on the rights of people with disabilities. Are they just a social cost or also a profit? Maybe in this respect, too, our perspective should change?

Let’s start from the beginning. I was very pleased to learn that the Jagiellonian University entered into partnership with Pierre and Marie Curie University1. Helena Dłuska, a sister of Marie Skłodowska-Curie, was the great pioneer, long since forgotten, of the struggle for the rights of people with disabilities. It is common knowledge that Marie Curie invested part of her Nobel Prize money into the Radium Institute to be established in Warsaw and solicited the first gram of radium for Poland. Very few people, however, are aware that some of the assets and enthusiasm of the Skłodowski family was channelled into the struggle for the rights of people with disabilities.

Helena Dłuska’s will, one that helped create Helenów near Warsaw and the first schools for students with disabilities, was so well drafted that it has recently successfully prevented various developers from putting up a very profitable housing estate on the land. It turned out that no amendments could be made to the will and the only legal use of the area was for the benefit of the needs of people with disabilities. If our concern about people with disabilities goes back so many years in time, why do we have so much to catch up with? This question reveals a very serious issue that needs to be changed as part of our common effort. The dignity of man may be breached not only when the person’s rights are trampled upon or assistance is refused, but also when this assistance is granted in a denigrating and disparaging way.

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Us and them

Over entire centuries, when, because of the feeling of alienation and the division into “us” – non-disabled and “them”, people with disabilities were pushed into the margins of the social life, it seemed that the best that could be done was to gather people with various disabilities in large military-style institutions with an intention to develop special needs education using, undoubtedly, the modern methods of the time. When my discipline, i.e. administrative law, began to deal with this issue, it was treated as a separate social problem for public administration. From this perspective, people were divided into two, clear-cut categories. One applied to those who brought something to the state, namely taxes. They were free citizens, estate owners who enjoyed the right to vote in local elections. Just one more 1

That is the DARe-Learning Project focused on academic teachers. More at www.DAReLearning.eu.


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photography by Jerzy Sawicz

i c ś o n jności” The Polish Ombudsman Professor Irena Lipowicz

requirement had to be satisfied at that time – they had to be married men. They were the only ones considered worthy and trusted by society. Women were excluded. The other category identified as people “under public guardianship” included those who renounced their rights and went under the custody of the state. The message thus conveyed was: you are free, non-disabled, productive, you pay taxes and support the state, so we treat you with respect, take your opinion into consideration, even allow you to co-govern the state at the local level. Or, alternatively: you are weak, ill, disabled or a child without parents. The state will take care of you, you will go under our custody, you will be placed in a gigantic orphanage, old people’s home with a semi-military rules and regulations or in an asylum for invalids, orphans or old people. The abovementioned institutions reflected the attitude of the state and the law to those under public custody. Yet custody guaranteed privileges – you would not have to work to provide for yourself, you will not die in the street, the state will take care of you.

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Everything in life comes at a price. What was this price throughout the 19th century and even up to the 1950s? You would have to renounce you rights. As one of the German theoreticians would say, you would go back to the state of infancy. Others will take care of your needs and you will not be able to demand anything, maybe only ask, just like a baby who cries asking something of her parents.

The thought that arose as part of this concept of returning to the state of infancy, caused by a health condition, was that the situation creates the cost incurred the state as it provides for the poor, unhappy and unproductive, at the same time strengthening its power over them. In the state of the 19th and early 20th century this issue was regulated by the law. It included the first provisions protecting people with disabilities (including mental health problems) against the abuse of families and cruel treatment. It may not be argued that these negative aspects were not prevented but seeing clusters of disabled persons as a cost and burden as well as an accumulation of problems for the state bore horrible and poisonous fruit.

What does going to extremes lead to? A grain of this thinking may be found when looking for the reasons why Nazis decided to exterminate so many people with disabilities, first from their own nations and then other followed. They were large

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groups of non-productive people and the Third Reich was to focus on productivity. If they were removed, only the healthy social tissue would remain. It is evident that instrumental treatment may bore poisonous, flagitious and gruesome fruit. Treating some people as needless for society was what the cornerstone of what eventually led to Auschwitz. While it was still far away, the idea lead to theoretical papers presenting these people as a burden for society and ended in Hartheim castle in Upper Austria where soon 60 thousand children with disabilities were murdered. The first to eliminate by Austrians and Germans were Austrian and German children. The process went on uninterrupted and the children’s bones, never buried, could be found around the castle for a long time after the war – well until the 1950s.

A person with any kind of disability has an inherent, constitutional right, protected by the Court and the constitutional branches of the state. They have a right to be here, to a good quality of life adjusted to their limitations and to be treated with respect as an important member of the community.

n w ó r „O z sk There were other ways of discrimination, too. For example, one of the excellent Austrian historian has proven why there are no traces of crimes committed on disabled children in Vienna’s hospitals. He discovered that one winter no fuel or food was provided – invoices for these items amounted to nought. Instrumental treatment of people, depriving them of dignity ends exactly at this point, the extreme end of the scale. What is worse, and I am writing this as a lawyer, the German law assisted this process because the theory of legal positivism providing that the contents of the law is of no interest to us as only the structure of the norm, characterised by clarity and elegance, is important was in operation at the time, extended to absurd dimensions. After 1945, realising what this state of affairs might lead to, the world, including the legal world, terrified, created the acts of the United Nations, the Common Declaration of Human Rights and the rights of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, it is astonishing that if you are looking for international legal protection of human dignity in the European law – and the actual rights of persons with disabilities are based on and derived from human dignity, not the theory of guardianship – the first reference to dignity other than in the UN documents can be found around 2000. Poland is not that much behind as our 1997 constitution includes a provision on inalienable dignity as a source of human freedom and grounds for all laws. The Constitutional Court has not issued a single judgment so far in which a breach of dignity, for example of a person with a disability, would make an independent basis for the Court’s activity.

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It is important for me to demonstrate how the law is being modified, how our perception is changing and why the Jagiellonian University has deserved the gratitude of the Ombudsman – I am writing here about the institution, not just my personal gratitude, but the gratitude of my entire team. The university is responsible for trailblazing and marking new routes in this field. I would like to emphasise that Poland in the Inter-War Period was in the avant-garde as regards the rights of people with disabilities. I admire and recommend to everyone your publication entitled “My Journey”2. I think that it should be sent to university libraries across the country. Why was this country in the avant-garde? Pre-war Poland was a poor country, often unable to afford mental hospitals, perceived as huge and luxurious at the time. Because of poverty in part and novelty of the concept to some extent, a system of foster families for mentally ill patients was adopted. Persons who could not live independently but did not have to remain in isolation were placed in families that received small allowances for the care provided to such patients. Often, these were people from rural areas. They were not sent to live in city buildings without any access to nature, but in large rural families that integrated them and took care of their needs. It turned out that they had a longer lifespan and better life quality My Journey. Reflections by Jagiellonian University students and teachers on mental illness and university education, Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service, Krakow 2010. A downloadable electronic version available at www.KonstelacjaLwa.pl



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while their wellbeing and drug therapy were more successful than in a huge, terrifying hospital for 5 thousand patients. When Nazis methodically murdered Polish psychiatric hospital patients, they also wanted to eliminate the group of dispersed patients because they had access to their documentation. This was when the families, who had often accepted patients motivated by a small income in the prewar times of great poverty in rural areas, not by sentiment, fought for these people trying to hide them or send them away to relatives to avoid releasing them to Nazis. Excluding one psychiatric hospital Nazis forgot about because of a bureaucratic mistake, the largest group of mentally ill patients who survived extermination were the dispersed ones who went into hiding all across Poland.

i c ś o n jności” What do we want to achieve?

Let’s move on the change of the paradigm in our thinking about disability, i.e. what we want to achieve. We know what the attitudes were to persons under public guardianship in the 19th century and we are well aware of the most monstrous abuse that took place in the 20th century. Now, let’s focus on the 21st century. Excessive historical arrogance should be avoided because many church institutions from the Middle Ages demonstrated a more humanitarian approach to and more understanding of the needs of people with disabilities that the terrible military-like Prussian institutions of the 18th century. Progress in not always linear. As we are in the 21st century, what do we want to achieve?

First of all, let’s focus on human dignity. If dignity makes the grounds that other laws are derived from, then rights of persons with disabilities are also the rights that are additionally based on inalienable dignity. A person with any kind of disability has an inherent, constitutional right, protected by the Court and the constitutional branches of the state. They have a right to be here, to a good quality of life adjusted to their limitations and to be treated with respect as an important member of the community. First of all, it means using the resources that people with disabilities have as employees while providing equal opportunities applies only to accessing their work and providing support dependent on the degree of disability. Secondly, it means that the approach adopted towards people with disabilities is one where they are the subject instead of being the object of care, which is the most difficult to change and here I’m hoping for the involvement of the academic community. The Polish state spends huge sums on creating more military-like enterprises employing people with disabilities. At the same time, it is a common belief that a person with a disability outside the system of supported employment enterprises or disabled workers’ cooperatives is an odd man out, something we are not comfortable with. I would like to explain that I do not oppose supported employment enterprises as for some illnesses, situations or initiatives this kind of solutions are justified. But the large sums spent by the state on the improvement of the situation of people with disabilities are among the rare cases when money is available but allocated in a wrong way. Increasingly more frequently, individuals with disabilities appeal to us: please, liberate us, give us this voucher, these funds designed for us, but do not make us work in the military-style establishments, do not place us is supported employment enterprises.

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This reminds me of a story of a person with a disability who came to Warsaw to work. She rented a flat and started her job. Things did not turn out well for her, however, as she had an accident and started to move in a wheelchair. She said, “I do not want to go back to where I came from, I will manage on my own, but now I need more money”. She was so good that she did not lose her job but now she requires more assistance to get to work, to pay for additional support, massage and rehabilitation. The categorisation of people into those who are quartered in barrack-like buildings, kept under guardianship, and those excellent, productive and free individuals crumbles down when we consider her story, but we are still stuck by remaining attached to schematic thinking – maybe a closed home on an island is not a good idea, but let’s send them to a disabled workers coop. This is yet another aspect where successful social change requires the assistance of the academic community.

The university and changing the paradigm in thinking about disability The university prepares to this kind of change by admitting people with various disabilities among its non-disabled students, which develops disability awareness. When its graduates start recruiting various persons as employers, they will not treat people with disabilities who want to work as an exotic Equality News  3 (4)/2013


photography by Jerzy Sawicz

n w ó r „O z sk The Polish Ombudsman Professor Irena Lipowicz speaking at the debate “About equality without going to extremes”

species. If, however, they fail to encounter students with disabilities over the course of their study, they will remain mentally closed. University education may prepare people with disabilities to become employers, too, instead of just being those who receive assistance. If your employer is on a wheelchair, but he is the one who pays you, or if he has a rare disease, but he is the one who employs you, social respect for him will immediately increase. So, the major task for the Jagiellonian University, one of the country’s leading schools, would be to develop an entrepreneurship incubator for people with various disabilities to liberate them not only from the role of welfare clients but even the role of the clients of supported employment enterprises. The university could also carry out research focusing on the fair redistribution of the national budget funds designed to support people with disabilities in a more subject-oriented way. We have enjoyed 25 years of freedom as a state. We have a new generation of children born over this period, some of whom are currently students of Polish universities. We have to tap into this potential.

What does equality bring society?

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How does society benefit from equality? First of all, we include in social work an entire group of people who have been left on the margins for unjustified reasons. It was a common view in the 19th century that women should not work in difficult professions, e.g. they could not become doctors. University professors endorsing this view argued that mellowness and weakness are inherent to the female nature and, as a consequence, women would never be able to cope with the difficulties of such professions as a doctor or judge. Today, a public declaration that a woman may not become a doctor, nurse, judge or scientist would be found abhorrent and contemptuous. The consequence of enforcing this kind of views in the past was a large reservoir of social potential that the state and society never tapped into.

Of course, some of this energy could not have been released because there were no technical means to perform washing, cleaning and other housework, so energy-intensive that in order to do it for her family the woman had to work for many hours, which was the cultural expectation of the time. Only after some technological breakthrough, were the physical resources released that could be channelled into other activities. This applied to the social groups that were not small, privileged or


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photography by Jerzy Sawicz

i c ś o n jności” Participants of the academic debate “About equality without going to extremes” attended by the Polish Ombudsman

had servants. The same is happening now for people with disabilities. The technological barrier which really prevented them from going to work or taking up other activity is being removed. At the same time we are heading towards a demographic disaster as the population of young people is decreasing. In such a serious situation, abandoning the resources of young people, albeit disabled to some degree, is especially ill-advised.

a r k Helping wisely

In conclusion, I would like to express my view that assistance should be provided in a prudent manner so that it releases energy and educates entire society, not just people with disabilities, and this is where all universities come into play. But thinking that only elites should educate a primitive nation is an intellectual trap because these are the uneducated and poor who discriminate against and the role of elites is to teach them not to do it. Regretfully, our reports prove that inhumane treatment of people with disabilities, adults, children and the elderly, can be encountered in all social classes. Neither education, earnings nor the size of a city determine the level of cruelty or callousness.

This is why social education should be provided across the board as everyone may learn something from others. The activity of a group of students from Jastrzębie Zdrój presents an encouraging example. Inspired by their teacher, they designed various technical innovations (e.g. a light-emitting (LED) model of a cane for a blind person vibrating when approaching an obstacle, a joystick for a person with the total paralysis of four limbs) supporting people with a serious degree of disability. Items whose market prices run into several thousand zlotys were offered to these people for free. Maybe universities could extend their patronage to such initiatives and promote this kind of achievements? A new type of social solidarity, created through this kind of initiatives, should be developed on the basis of the potential of the new generations born in independent Poland and the authority of the leading academic centres thinking in an innovative way. If I were to assign a role to the Jagiellonian University, it would be a vital role in social change leading to the development of the society whose members act together, use existing resources and endorse innovation and social capital.

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DARe-Learning: distance learning about equality Małgorzata Perdeus, the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service (JU DSS)

Since the very day a dedicated unit was set up at the Jagiellonian University dealing with educational support for students with various disabilities, it has been obvious that without cooperation with academic teachers and without their involvement the process of studies adaptation will not be fully successful. It also became clear soon that for such collaboration to be a success disability awareness must be built among University staff, as for the effective education of persons with disabilities knowledge is necessary of the consequences of specific disabilities as well as of solving the problems faced by disabled students. For many, the reality of the medical model was a failure giving them no chance to acquire such skills. Because of the practice of isolating persons with disabilities in special schools academic teachers rarely met disabled students and so did not have the knowledge concerning their needs and methods of educating them. Incidentally, such a lack of awareness has been one of the recurring criticisms towards the University as well as its actual weakness. DARE, DARE 2 and DARe-Learning projects A great opportunity to change this situation was the innovation transfer project implemented as part of the Leonardo da Vinci programme. The Jagiellonian University received a subsidy to develop, in collaboration with European partners, a programme of training for academic teachers and administration staff on the basis of innovative training owned by Learning–Difference, a company from the UK. Extensive experience of the English partner related to teacher training and a novel approach to disability based on the social model as well as openness to cooperation with European partners made it possible to develop an interesting course that responded to the needs of its creators at the time. Dare training, developed at that time, is available in Polish, English, Bulgarian, Spanish and Italian. In 2009-2011 the Jagiellonian University was the promoter of another project in this area and, at the same time, a source of innovation transfer and an inspiration for other European universities. An Icelandic version was added to the existing Polish version, which was updated, just like the English version. This latter task was a very important reason for the project to be continued. Because of the social and legal situation, which was changing, further work on these materials was required. The work was parallel to training, which is why the Jagiellonian


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University itself trained several hundred persons and, as a result of the experience gained in the course of training, the materials developed responded better to the needs of the course participants. The next edition of the programme, which is about to end, is the DAReLearning project. It was inspired by the expectations of teachers participating in our training courses in the previous years. They reported the need to gain access to the materials expanding the information they obtained in group training sessions. The partners complied with the postulate, which was so common, and offered a twofold support: source materials providing information published on an educational portal and in the form of an electronic e-learning platform including practical information arranged in a simple and clear way, necessary for teachers who want to offer high-quality teaching. The source of innovation transfer for this project was the Jagiellonian University, too, which disseminated the achievements of the previous three years of work to three outstanding academic centres in Europe, Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, Charles University in Prague and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It should be emphasised that the project partners included large state universities with experience in the work with students with disabilities. Tapping into their experience provided more context to the materials developed for students, focusing, e.g., on the nature of different

drawn by Joanna Dzięglewska A drawing showing the partner countries of the DARE project consortium and the innovation transfer directions

languages, adaptation methods preferred by students or various specialisations. Experience of prior work with university teachers was an important reference point and a guarantee that the materials developed will truly respond to the teachers’ needs. The partners also worked on the expansion of the already existing materials and on the development of additional electronic resources meeting the requirements of teachers with regard to the support for students with disabilities. The e-learning platform deserves special attention here because of its easier accessibility. It includes logically organised materials that may be consulted by the user at any convenient moment, hence the platform may become an extremely flexible source of information.

DARe-Learning training course Group training has remained the foundation of the training package. Its major goal is to bring the issues of disability closer to the users by involving them in exercises where they have to put themselves into the shoes of a person with a disability and making them familiar with the basic methods and techniques of overcoming difficulties related to the access to education. The idea is that the training is provided by a professional trainer who, on the basis of the programme developed, moderates a discussion between the participants creating, at the

same time, safe space for the exchange of opinions on the needs that might arise due to the student’s disability. Because of the limited time that the university employees may devote to this kind of training, the kinds of disabilities selected for the training were the ones that may occur most often among students and become the greatest challenges for teachers. These include: sight impairments, hearing disability, mental health problems, mobility impairments and specific learning difficulties. On the basis of the experiences from the training sessions organised in the previous years, the partners decided to prepare an extensive cultural adaptation of the materials. It involved, by and large, making them fit for the characteristics of universities in individual countries and selecting the issues that the university employees consider the most topical at the moment in the context of disability. The subject arising in all countries was the issue of disability as a source of discrimination and the role of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in creating social change. This is why it was discussed in additional educational materials designed for those who wanted to find out more. They were prepared as articles and comments made by experts and practitioners, all of them being fully available at the educational portal www.DAReLearning.eu. They include materials focusing on the issue of the accessibility of culture resources for people with disabilities, a familiar Equality News  3 (4)/2013


topic for the representatives of humanities. A discussion on what materials may be used as additional materials for the students of humanities with such disabilities as a sight or hearing impairment keeps cropping up as the key issue at each training. These materials always require adaptation. The question is how to do it and to what extent so that it makes sense, which requires knowledge. The teacher may be referred to the examples of adaptations prepared by others and use them as a basis or inspiration for his or her own ideas. It needs to be remembered that modern technologies may serve as an opportunity as well as a barrier for people with disabilities. Teachers who develop their own educational materials need information on the technological conditions and options provided by the fast-changing electronic world. Practical guides to the adaptation of websites, texts and images for blind persons available at the portal will thus be useful. The materials also include the opinions of those most interested in the accessibility of the e-world, i.e. students with disabilities. Their evaluation motivates them to seek solutions and helps them define difficulties that may appear if educational materials are not well-designed. In these publications, interested users may find out about opinions on and experiences related to equal treatment and sensible adaptations of classes as well as case studies and comments on the boundary dividing the recommended adaptation from the privilege granted to a student.

DARe-Learning platform By clicking on the E-learning tab in the educational portal you can go to the registration form and, if you fill it in, you may access the e-learning platform discussed above, the most interesting and innovative result of the work done by the partners of the DARe-Learning project. The platform aims to extend and complement the issues presented in the group training but it is also open to persons who, for various reasons, are not able to take part in traditional training. The authors of the package believe that the best and most effective way to raise qualifications is both to take part in the group training and to read the materials available from the educational platform, developed in a way that enables the user to find fundamental answers to the questions bothering him. Thus the platform includes a general description of disabilities discussed in the group training and other disabilities that impact the functioning of students at universities. For those interested, it provides information on the Asperger syndrome, speech difficulties or chronic diseases. An important part of each module includes detailed recommendations of effective adaptations as well as additional information providing the context for understanding the difficulties experienced by individual people with disabilities. There are multimedia presentations on some subjects, aiming to expand the perspective and provide more opportunities for the development of effective adaptations. Each module ends with a test checking the level of understanding and knowledge.

An open discussion concerning all these subjects is a sign of an important change at university where Teachers who develop Educational game it is becoming essential how their own educational to educate students with The innovative element of materials need information disabilities so that their the e-learning training is an diplomas are equivalent to on the technological educational game based on the the ones awarded to nonconditions and options stories of four students. It is an disabled graduates and their excellent training material useful provided by the fastrights are respected while the for every teacher who would changing electronic world. uncertainty whether it is at like to find out what kind of Practical guides to the all possible, so prevalent until decisions they would take if one adaptation of websites, recently, is becoming history. of the game characters became The internet portal also texts and images for blind their student. Both wrong and includes numerous materials, persons available at the right choices are accompanied e.g. educational films whose portal will thus be useful. by a commentary. Problems and characters – individuals with tasks, presented with a pinch of various disabilities, express salt, will not be dull at all; instead, their opinions on the equal they will bring smiles on the faces treatment of students and share their personal of many participants. Hoping that this will promote reflections about adaptations without which they would be unable to study. Information about the inclusive education among many teachers, we want to difficulties that students with various disabilities encourage you to visit the DARe-Learning platform. grapple with can be obtained from leaflets available It is accessible for the employees of the Jagiellonian from the portal. Thanks to the Creative Commons University. Those who are interested may register upon license, both private individuals and educational entering the registration form which can be found on www.DAReLearning.eu under the E-learning tab. institutions may use and reproduce them.


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photography by Marta Bylica DARe-Learning project partners meeting in Krakow on 6 June 2013, left-right: Sophie Bravy, Paschalina Kyrgiafini, Katie Quartano, Anna Barcik, Bernard Quinn, Ireneusz Białek, Dagmara Nowak-Adamczyk

Małgorzata Perdeus – co-founder of the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service, she has completed a graduate programme at Metrum School for Trainers in Katowice as well as a course at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw; author of educational content for the www.DAReLearning.eu e-learning platform and portal; coordinator of a work package focusing on the preparation of a training course agenda in the DARe-Learning project; trainer delivering disability awareness workshops for Jagiellonian University academic teachers and administrative staff.

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My “other” language course: English for hard of hearing and deaf students at the Jagiellonian University Dominika Stopa, English teacher at the Jagiellonian Language Centre

Magda is a Jagiellonian University student who received a B from her English exam at the B2 level two years ago. Her articulation in English is just like in Polish – slightly unclear and nasalised but understandable for the users of both languages. When asked whether she was satisfied with her pronunciation, she would not be able to answer the question. She has never heard how English sounds. Or Polish. Or even her own voice.

Not all students in the English class held at the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service (JU DSS) are like Magda. In fact, everyone is different as the group includes deaf and hard of hearing students, persons with hearing problems since birth or those who have experienced them just for some time. They have different experiences from school, they communicate with their parents in a different way and they started using hearing aids at different moments in their lives. Their ability to recognize sounds of a specific pitch or frequency is not the same, either. They do not use the sign language and they do not depend on lip reading to the same extent. Although everyone is Polish, they differ with respect to how well they know it, their vocabulary or ease of using complex grammatical structures, e.g. a number of nuances of Polish noun or numeral declinations might still pose a difficulty for some. All the factors listed above are extremely important for the ability to learn a foreign language. But I have never found out about them in any other way than from each individual student who would only reveal a bit of the picture to me while already working in class. Over time, I have learnt how to recognize their needs, how to adapt the process of teaching, my enunciation or the necessary word selection in Polish. Although the differences would remain, we have developed a set of signs, signals, our internal codes shared by everyone, that would enable each student to enjoy the advantages of being the member of the group and, at the same time, to be treated individually and focus on one aim, i.e. learning English. And almost everyone has been able to achieve their aim and obtain positive grades through hard work because


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there is one thing that all the students attending our English course have in common – they are all ambitious and ready to overcome difficulties. In the conditions ensuring equal opportunities it became clear for them that if they invest a lot of work themselves, they may achieve the same results as their hearing friends – earn a degree, then another one and find a job. Magda is just about to start her PhD programme.

Adaptation Everyone who wears glasses knows from their own experience what adaptation is. It involves the application of a device or mechanism that makes it possible to achieve what is impossible due to the limitations of your own body. Organising an English course, JU DSS took every effort to tailor the conditions of teaching to the needs of people with a hearing impairment. First of all, it was necessary to provide adequate space, i.e. a room having the right layout and equipped with modern devices. The U-shape arrangement of tables enables the students to maintain eye contact and a light signalling system (small lamps installed in tables) draw the attention of everyone, even those who are the most engrossed in books (although in such small groups as there are at JU DSS, attention is drawn naturally by gestures, waving a hand, patting one’s shoulder and, what is more, all these friendly gestures bring smiles on students’ faces). Students are seated facing an interactive board where I can write down all material covered in class in English and much of what has been said in Polish. An English vocabulary item and its Polish translation may escape some students’

attention or may not be heard, which will go unnoticed if the words are not written down. An electronic board connected to the network makes it possible to send the phrase from the board to students every time it is put down, which enables them to fully focus on what happens in class eliminating the need to write it down and providing access to comprehensive notes, which proves even more useful if the student is absent. Students often write down something that they consider especially important but this means that they may not be listening during this time as they are not looking at the person speaking. “Listening through looking” for hard of hearing people is determined by the adaptation of the space around them. The room is brightly lit, the screen must be visible and the letters on it sufficiently large. Unlike the ear, which is not tired by listening to the sounds of regular volume, the eye and its muscles are exposed to constant contraction and relaxation, which is why they should not be tired by additional efforts necessitated by the change of lighting or a too small font. An interactive board makes it possible to use any graphic material, photographs, maps, diagrams or drawings – it is often easier to explain the meaning of a noun using a simple drawing rather than a Polish equivalent. You may show students notes from the previous class, continue with a certain way of organising information, use colours in the same manner and, in general, maintain some regularity and consistence. The room has been equipped with the inductophonic loop that enables the hearing aid user to

receive the sound which is amplified by the microphone or the sound system.

Time and space Modern technology facilitates learning and teaching to a great extent but it is not the only supporting tool. There are other ones I had read about in training materials and gradually discovered in the course of work. I would refer to them as an alternative use of time and space. First of all, small groups are necessary (3-4 persons) because everyone should have a similar level of English and be able to contact one another and the teacher during class. This brings the students closer, individual contact is possible, the teacher may check the students’ notes, make sure they understand him or her and maintain on-going eye contact. What appears is a thread in space connecting the listener’s eyes and the speaker’s lips, a moving axis that determines the current broadcasting and receiving channel. Additionally, the space is filled with gestures, not a sign language but my own gesticulation (also mimics) that I use automatically to complement the verbal message and to relieve my throat. My students are perfect at grasping what must be corrected, repeated, changed, started, stopped or ended. Gestures denoting not just physical features but also abstract categories (past tense, emotions, questions, etc.) are made naturally and enrich not just

photography by Marta Bylica

Dominika Stopa during classes with students

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our language but also my perception of the possibilities of communication. Time use should also be optimal, which does not imply filling as much of it as possible with serious exercises. Participation in classes and concentration can be exhausting, thus it may be better to set a larger part of the material as homework that students take time to do. On the other hand, time in class is precious, so I try to help students to concentrate and focus on the task they are doing. If I notice that someone is not listening or does not understand my instructions, I have to repeat them. Even if everyone is listening to me, there are things I need to explain more than once. And I will not speed anything up if I content myself with the smiles and nodding of the students who, sometimes tired, pretend that everything is clear. When it is not clear, I have to repeat it. Time planning is also related to the course extension. Deaf and hard of hearing students are usually awarded additional course hours in their first year of study as part of the provision of equal opportunities. Due to disability they need more time to work on the same course material.

Teacher, or the same thing in a different way

Pronunciation exercises are not a major element of the course but it is often offered at the request of the students who want to make themselves well understood. In a world where there is no emphasis on enunciation and all accents enjoy equal status my students are persistent in their efforts to achieve correct pronunciation. I also must adjust my articulation to their needs and abilities. I try to speak louder, but without unnecessary expression, avoid less audible low tones or signal the presence of a sound, e.g. s (third person singular), which may be inaudible but possible to be pronounced, with a gesture. While speaking, I do not move around the room, I do not cover my lips and I am fully aware that lip reading does not guarantee the full understanding of the message. When I am speaking too fast, I may not be certain what my students will hear and understand when they can see me saying, e.g. mom (bomb?), peas (knees?), cat (sat?), cough (off?). How much can they understand when I am speaking English? Some American studies suggest that in the ideal conditions 40-50% of sounds in English look the same when spoken and even the best may understand less than 50% of the message from the lip movement. In my conversation with students I always need to make sure that I was well understood.

In the space which has been Inability to use English freely in adequately adapted a trained In a world where everyday communication in class teacher like myself takes on a slightly there is no emphasis limits language learning to the different role than in the courses with “correct” material and makes me on enunciation non-disabled students where the abandon many popular phrases teacher works more as a moderator and all accents that tend to be picked up naturally stimulating individual work. Hard enjoy equal status by language learners. As a central of hearing students are more my students are broadcasting station I also play dependent of the contents that I give persistent in the role of a central transmitter, them, which makes me the primary, their efforts to i.e. I inform the students (and and sometimes only, source of determine) who was speaking achieve correct information in class. Most of the time at a given moment, what they pronunciation. they focus attention on me when said, what question were asked I give them directions or show them and what answer was provided. the material, so I have quickly learnt Although I encourage interaction, to avoid doing two things simultaneously as it makes a conversation in English among students is almost it impossible to follow what happens in class. I do not impossible. Equipping the room with laptops with explain anything while writing on the board with my back to the group, I do not comment what other student InterLang software that enables chatting in English and has said or speak when the student is busy reading. It communication among students without my mediation did not take me long to get used to this time-consuming turned out an excellent idea. They may freely compare but necessary coordination of activities. Also, I am the their answers, read comments and exchange jokes. only model of English pronunciation as we do not use recordings. The students, who often attended courses in Polish articulation, are more aware of the principles and places of sound production and writing down the pronunciation of new words using phonetic transcription symbols makes it easier for them to distinguish sounds and brings them closer to correct articulation.


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My major goal is to limit my role and increase the student’s independence while working with each group and I observe great progress in this respect at the end of each course. An interesting novelty for me was the need to find an optimal way of organising information and adjusting

the way of speaking in my contacts with students. It is necessary to be precise, ensure organisation that is clear, the right speed and logical breaks, both in speech and in a text. Each contribution should be well-prepared and have a clear structure because digressions, repetitions and references are distracting and hinder understanding. I provide information effectively and in the simplest way possible. So, instead of saying, “Please, do the next three exercises”, I say “Please, do exercise three, four and five”. Instead of saying, “We will move the class to one hour later”, I will say “We will start at one”. I avoid abstract word clusters difficult for students and rare vocabulary of foreign origin as well as multi-clause sentences or unnecessary verb participles. Without regret, I have abandoned such phrases as “the first edition has been carried out, the review report has been developed” or “preventing the evaluation of the selected issues”. Always a fan of simplicity, I have discovered it anew.

Faster or more effectively? A dilemma of inclusive education Despite the support of the university management and many efforts taken by the JU DSS staff, the English course at JU DSS is not problem-free. The potential of our students was shaped by earlier educational experiences and very often their knowledge of English, although confirmed by a successful secondary school final exam, is insufficient to achieve the B2 level required by the National Education Framework. I teach students who may have been hurt by the mistaken concept of doing good and who enjoyed preferential treatment

at school. Even those who were treated on par with non-disabled students but passed basic English finals obtaining the score of 40-50% know English just at the A2 level, which means that passing an exam at the required B2 level is impossible. Even non-disabled students are not required to take two levels instead of one during an English course and for students with disabilities the slower speed of learning and additional time necessary needs to be taken into account. It is easy to predict difficulties caused by the lack of time for catching up at the start, which means that three years of hard work will never end with a complete success. This also hurts the quality of teaching and makes the teacher face a dilemma whether to devote more work to something and teach it in a more interesting way or whether to do it more effectively, i.e. faster. For persons with a hearing disability “faster” always means “in a less successful way”.

Conclusions... I teach English to students, but my students have also taught me a number of things over these several years at JU DSS. I have learnt to treat them the same way I would treat any other students because the worst thing that can be done is not to expect the same performance from them. I have met young people, persistent to the level of being pertinacious, who have far more determination than average when striving to achieve their goals. Observing their everyday work I can see that nothing is impossible to a willing mind. And a proof that this saying is not just a cliché fills me with optimism.

Dominika Stopa – English teacher at the Jagiellonian Language Centre, for many years collaborating with the JU DSS in shaping the Jagiellonian University’s offer as regards English for deaf and hard of hearing persons. She is highly qualified in developing teaching methods for students with various disabilities and teaching materials adapted to their needs. Ms Stopa has gained her professional experiences, inter alia, at Aarhus University in Denmark.

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(Non-) or disabled education? Teaching students with disabilities: an academic teacher’s perspective Daniel Dzida, Institute of Public Health, Medical College, and Institute of Psychology, both at the Jagiellonian University I became interested in disability when studying Psychology, coming across intellectual disability and contacting persons with disabilities during internships. In this article I present my own experiences and reflections related to the education of persons with disabilities. I describe the problems and dilemmas faced in my teaching work, including the positive aspects. I also share with the reader my experience of collaboration with the JU DSS staff, thanks to whom I was able to understand the world of disabled persons much better. To me, the events organised by the Service so far have always been an opportunity to not only improve my knowledge about persons with disabilities but have inspired creative debates and looking at various things in a different way. I hope this article makes the reader reflect that sometimes it is education that is disabled and it is education that should be improved, i.e. adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities rather than the other way around!

Disability Awareness Taking part in the international conference “Disability Awareness – New Challenges for Education” held in Krakow in 2009 and organised by the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service (JU DSS) as part of the DARE project was an important event for me. I could find out about comprehensive and diverse activities undertaken for the benefit of students with disabilities, both in Poland and abroad. I was impressed by the solutions and policy implemented as they both demonstrated that if there were adequate support and involvement, people with various disabilities could study at university and disability did not have to be a barrier impossible to overcome. It was for the first time that I saw sign language interpreters (Polish and American) at work interpreting the speakers’ presentation. Interpretation into different languages is a common sight, but interpretation into a sign language is a rare occurrence. There was one speaker among the conference guests (Professor Tonya Stremlau of Gallaudet University in Washington) who signed her presentation and said that she would have to take breaks between the slides as sign language interpreters, when they want


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to render the message, must look at the speaker and may not look at the presentation at the same time. The event was accompanied by an exhibition of the prototypes of various items tailored to the needs of people with disabilities (the item I liked the most was a mug adjusted to the needs of people with a sight impairment)1. The conference aimed to emphasise that people with disabilities increasingly more often go to study at university, which, unfortunately, often fails to adapt classes to their needs. Another issue raised was support for individuals with dyslexia 1 Description: The design is a successful attempt at solving a daily problem experienced by blind persons, as they find it hard to capture the right moment while pouring a drink into a mug, that is when the vessel is almost full. The design is based on the refraction at a slight angle of the external plane of the mug’s bottom and balancing the vessel properly. In effect, when the level of the liquid which is being poured is a centimetre away from the upper brim, the mug leans sideways. The handle which used to prop the mug up – and which has so far been the counterbalance for the mug contents – separates from the base, a movement accompanied by the mug bottom knocking against the surface it stands on. The same solution has been applied to a teapot. Source: www.konferencja. dareproject.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=60&lang=pl (12.09.2013).

photography by Jerzy Sawicz A mug for blind and partially sighted users, design by Anna Ostrowska

as they usually cannot expect assistance at the university level in Poland (although both diagnosis and various forms of assistance are available at lower levels of education). This applies both to technical and technological preparation as well as the attitudes prevalent among the university administration staff and teachers as views and opinions concerning people with disabilities vary among the academic community. It should be emphasised that the work of the Disability Support Service at two Polish universities, the Jagiellonian University and the Warsaw University, was not any different from their counterparts abroad, although foreign universities have larger budgets for providing support to students with disabilities than what is available in Poland. Year by year, the number of students with disabilities is increasing (according to the data provided by the Chief Statistical Office there were over 30 thousand persons with various disabilities studying in Poland in 2011) and this trend is forecast to continue, so most universities will have to take it on board. As a student I meet more and more students with disabilities at university and in class. I am very pleased that the subject of people with disabilities is discussed as part of a social debate increasingly more often, both at university and outside it. Increasing numbers of nondisabled people open up to this issue approaching it with interest and curiosity, as demonstrated by, for example, large turnout of non-disabled people at the “To Touch Culture” event organised by JU DSS this and previous year with an aim to present the collection of the Jagiellonian University Museum held in Collegium Maius to people with disabilities or popularity of the films describing the stories of people with disabilities recently screened in Polish cinemas, such as “Untouchables” (2011), “The Sessions” (2012) or “Imagine” (2012).

Professor Tonya Stremlau of Gallaudet University in Washington and one of the ASL interpreters

Training courses and conferences organised by the JU DSS The first experience of a participant of a conference organised by JU DSS, which was very positive, encouraged me to follow JU DSS’s website and its activities. I also started direct cooperation with JU DSS and, as part of it, together with the Club of Young Psychologists established at the Krakow Branch of the Polish Psychologists’ Association, in 2011 we organised a workshop entitled “Educational Support for Students with Disabilities at the Jagiellonian University: the Scope of Responsibilities of the Disability Support Service” targeting primarily undergraduate, graduate and PhD students as well as employees of the Jagiellonian University Institute of Psychology. The workshops focused on the presentation of the offer of JU DSS. Another breakthrough was the workshop “Breaking the Taboo: University and Mental-Health Difficulties” organised by JU DSS in 2011 as part of the “Constellation Leo” project. The project focused on mental health and offered, among others, support for the students of the Jagiellonian University experiencing emotional difficulties. It was the event that broke the taboo, i.e. started a discussion on mental health problems at universities. The data available shows that more and more people are experiencing mental health difficulties and the number of students revealing this kind of problems is increasing. This is why universities should undertake activities targeting this issue. It should be remembered that following the provisions of the National Mental Health Protection Programme2 universities should implement programmes promoting mental health. Many myths and stereotypes that have arisen over the years around mental health and people The National Mental Health Protection Programme (2010). Source: www.mz.gov.pl/wwwfiles/ma_struktura/docs/npoz_ zdrpub_03112011.pdf (access date: 12.09.2013).


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photography by Jerzy Sawicz Participants of the conference “Disability Awareness – New Challenges for Education”, 22-23 October 2009

experiencing emotional crises and difficulties, which is why it is essential to promote the most recent, valid information on mental health, change attitudes to psychological support and psychiatric treatment as well as to people who experience mental health problems. The workshops organised demonstrated that there are extensive needs in this area, but also dispelled many false beliefs and encouraged many people to open up to this subject. The workshops also included valuable training provided by specialists. I took part in a training offered by a psychiatrist (Edyta Dembińska, MD with a doctorate in medical sciences – editor’s note) who explained the influence of psychoactive drugs on the process of learning and provided specific, detailed guidelines for teachers on how to cooperate with students using pharmacotherapy. The training also provided an opportunity to ask questions to specialists in order to clarify any uncertainties. In my class (for students and doctors) focusing on mental health and mental health promotion I always mention the “Constellation Leo” project. It always triggers interest and provokes participants to ask additional questions, which is when I can recommend the website of the project (www.KonstelacjaLwa.pl) including all information and materials, very interesting and useful, both for students, university teachers and people who would like to learn more about mental health.


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“My Journey”, a publication (published as part of the project and available free of charge at the JU DSS website) including personal stories of students who experienced mental health problems, also enjoys significant interest. The book was very well received and earned many positive comments among students. I also had an opportunity to participate in a teacher training course (part of DARE 2), a very useful experience as I could learn how to conduct classes (what mistakes should be avoided, what to focus on) attended by students with a sight or hearing impairment. When you think about people with disabilities, the first thing that comes to mind is someone with mobility impairment. Students with this kind of disability usually experience problems related to the building and classroom accessibility. But for people with a sight or hearing impairment, essential adaptations are those related to the way the class is taught (e.g. clear presentations, description of pictures, charts and diagrams, making sure you do not cover your lips or turn your back while speaking to students), teaching materials are prepared (e.g. using adequate, readable font of enlarged size) or exams and tests are conducted (e.g. time limit extension, adapted form with questions and answers, oral exam instead of written). All information and guidelines received during training helped me significantly in my work as a teacher.

photography by Jerzy Sawicz Participants of the workshop “Breaking the Taboo: Universities and Mental-Health Difficulties”, 14 April 2011

Cooperation between the JU DSS and academic teachers What I especially enjoy is letters with guidelines sent by JU DSS to the teachers indicated by the student. They contain detailed, specific instructions (e.g. kind and size of font for teaching materials) that make it easier to tailor the process of teaching to a specific person: to adapt classes, materials, tests and exams. It is often difficult for teachers who have students with disabilities in class to determine what adaptation would be the best. The problem that often appears is whether a given solution will be fair for other students who are non-disabled. The latter applies, above all, to tests and exams. This is why after reading the student’s medical documentation and finding out about his or her situation JU DSS officers draft letters in which they indicate the recommendations of the best adaptations needed, which significantly facilitates the teacher’s work. Many a time have I encountered opinions that students with disabilities enjoy preferential treatment, may take oral exams and get better grades, etc. This is why it is vital that non-disabled students know and are convinced that all adaptations are fair and offered only to provide equal opportunities so that people with disabilities are not at a disadvantage because of their impairments and have the same chance of demonstrating their knowledge and skills in a way that is adapted to their abilities. It does

not mean preferential treatment or lower requirements by any measure, which is in line with the idea of a reasonable accommodation defined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms3. Personally, I also value the possibility of direct contact with JU DSS officers, who may always provide assistance and additional explanation, should you have any doubts or additional questions. I have often called their office to find out what to do in a given situation and they have always provided me with the information needed. It is my experience that many adaptations do not require much effort on the teacher’s part really and are easy to implement because printing materials using a larger font or copying them in an enlarged format is hardly a problem. The need to prepare materials in another, non-standard way may sometimes give rise to a creative idea. As a result, this kind of materials and exercises may, on the one hand, be adapted to the needs of a person The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, done in New York City on 13 December 2006, source: www.dziennikustaw.gov.pl/du/2012/1169/1 (access date: 12.09.2013).


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with a disability and, on the other, be interesting Following this directive, JU DSS may provide assistance and attractive for non-disabled students (e.g. tactile not only to people with disabilities who have a certificate models). What I also make available to students is confirming the degree of disability but also to people materials in an electronic form which may be opened in with chronic illnesses (who do not have this kind of programmes offering the option of adaptation (e.g. font a certificate) as well as individuals who, as a result enlargement or reading using a speech synthesizer), an of an unexpected illness or accident (e.g. arm or leg definite advantage for people with various disabilities. fracture) may have temporary difficulties. For the latter, It should be emphasised that this kind of materials must it is necessary to provide documentation confirming meet certain standards (e.g. punctuation marks put the student’s current health status. Students as well at the right places) so that the person with a disability as teachers are not always aware that, even in such may really use them without problems. Of course, temporary periods, they may obtain support from JU some adaptations are more complex and this is when DSS. Sometimes, despite the fact that such an option the teacher and a given student may obtain support has been indicated to a non-disabled student who is from JU DSS. The Disability Support Service attempts temporarily in a difficult health situation, they do not to take up activities helping to provide the support come to JU DSS as they do not want to take advantage needed within the options available at university. It of this option and prefer to make arrangements directly with teachers. Sometimes, may also prepare teaching materials this solution is beneficial for as it has the necessary tools both parties, sometimes there (specialist IT workroom for blind Many adaptations do is a risk that the teacher may and partially sighted persons) to not require much effort find it difficult to assess what prepare Braille printouts or tactile on the teacher’s part adaptation is necessary (it may images. It also has a multimedia really and are easy to be insufficient or excessive) or language lab where classes for implement. the student may have problems people with sight and hearing determining what conditions to impairment are held. It must be arrange with teachers, especially admitted that there are limits that the situation applies not to for adaptations as they may turn out very difficult (time consuming and expensive) or just one but all classes. The assistance offered by a JU impossible to be implemented (depend both on JU DSS DSS officer presenting an array of options available and and the cooperation of students and teachers with JU advising on the best solution for a given situation may DSS), which is when adaptations are abandoned and be invaluable for the student while the teacher does not the interested parties are notified of the difficulties. It have to analyse the student’s health situation in detail should also be emphasised that the support activities and, instead, obtains a specific recommendation on offered by JU DSS to undergraduate, graduate and how to adjust the process teaching and exams to the PhD students are regulated by the ordinance 122 by the specific health situation of a given student. It should be Jagiellonian University Rector of 10 December 2012 on remembered that all solutions must be in line with the the adjustment of the educational process to the needs university’s internal regulations and some may require of persons with disabilities and persons with special the consent of various individuals in charge (course coordinator, department head or dean of the faculty). health conditions . The resistance of students with regard to taking advantage of the JU DSS offer might be caused by the fear of extensive administrative procedures, by the fact The My Journey book and the mascot of the “Constellation Leo” programme they do not see themselves as disabled or by general unwillingness to accept institutionalised support.

(Non-) or disabled education? photography by Marta Bylica

It seems that universities are becoming increasingly friendlier to people with disabilities. Many buildings are adapted so that people with mobility impairment may freely access the building and move around it without major barriers. Other kinds of adaptations related to sight and hearing disabilities are more difficult to implement. Recently, more has been heard about students with dyslexia or mental health problems that require adequate adaptations which will give


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them a chance to continue their study and obtain a degree despite the problems they experience. Currently, the major challenge in providing education for people with disabilities is setting the limit for reasonable accommodation. The development of new technologies, including supporting technologies, helps to remove many barriers and limitations. New technologies, if adequately applied, make it possible to carry out the tasks that have been impossible or very difficult for people with disabilities so far. The negative aspect of technological adaptations is undoubtedly their high cost, which is why the real barrier is often economic. But more and more frequently it is mentioned that, apart from the “obvious” barriers, there are also more or less subtle social barriers related to the negative attitudes to people with disabilities. Many a time, despite the fact that technical and

economic barriers have been removed, it turns out that people with disabilities in the academic community encounter various limitations which are a consequence of the lack of knowledge, understanding or openness to otherness as well as difficult emotions, such as fear, sadness, repulsion or pity, revealed by non-disabled towards those with disabilities. This is why it is vital that, next to the activities aiming to remove or limit the aforementioned barriers, there is also work done towards building disability awareness, the attitude of acceptance and understanding for individuals with various disabilities among society, including the academic community. These activities should be undertaken not only to enable people with disabilities to study at university but also because they are members of the academic community and should not be excluded from it.

Daniel Dzida – psychologist, assistant lecturer at the Health Promotion Department, the Institute of Public Health of the Jagiellonian University Medical College and doctoral student at the Health Psychology Unit in the Jagiellonian University’s Institute of Psychology. Mr. Dzida is working on a PhD dissertation focusing on the mental well-being of persons with mobility disability. His main scientific interests include health psychology and health promotion as well as psychology of education: dyslexia, multiculturalism, disability and educational support. Member of the Polish Psychological Society.

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Academic lesson in equality Maria Libiszewska, consultant for student matters at the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities guarantees them access to higher education without discrimination and on an equal footing with others. Since the very start of its operation, the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service has been active in making educational opportunities equal for students for whom, because of their health difficulties, such access is not easy. In the spirit of the Convention, we have been successful in working out a series of solutions which are now part of the standard educational support offer for persons with disabilities at university, as regulated by the ordinance 122 by the Jagiellonian University Rector of 10 December 2012 on the adjustment of the educational process to the needs of persons with disabilities and persons with special health conditions. The spirit of the Convention in practice The cooperation of the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service (JU DSS) with the university community proves that the Convention ideas are increasingly more often implemented in the university daily practice. In this article I would like to describe the positive examples of the Convention impact and the situations in which the solutions promoting the idea of equal opportunities have been successfully implemented as seen from the perspective of a consultant for student matters. I would also like to indicate areas for further development as despite evident changes in disability awareness, the lesson in equal treatment is not over yet. Before the idea of inclusive education may be fully implemented, all three academic groups, students, teachers and JU DSS, still have a lot to learn in the course of their collaboration. The recent history of several years of cooperation between JU DSS and the academic community has been a lesson in getting to know each other, defining boundaries and arranging the principles of cooperation. We have gone a long way together and the support standards for people with disabilities developed at university make the capstone of our collaboration. The number of persons who take advantage of the JU DSS support keeps growing every day, which, on the one hand, may mean that there is an increasingly greater access to university education and, on the other, that JU DSS as a consulting body mediating in contacts between students and university


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teachers or acting for greater disability awareness continues to be necessary as part of the university structure. The examples below also demonstrate the validity of the trilateral cooperation.

The academic triangle in action The procedures in force at the Jagiellonian University provide that JU DSS issues opinions on students’ requests related to the adaptation of the education process to their needs being a consequence of a disability and the requests for the award of a study break motivated by a health condition. In the recent years, the university management of various levels increasingly more often consult JU DSS. Aware of what we do and confident that each matter will be thoroughly analysed by our officers, they recommend contact with JU DSS to students with health difficulties in order to find the best solution to each academic situation. One of the deans has expressed it directly by saying that the establishment of JU DSS liberated him from evaluating matters that he had no expertise about. Thanks to this trilateral cooperation, it is possible to solve difficult and complex situations that may often have a great impact upon the lives of some specific individuals. Constructive and reasonable solutions are guaranteed by the knowledge and competencies exhibited by three parties: the student, the one who knows the most about his or her situation, the university management, aware of formal options available, and JU DSS, evaluating which solutions are justified and good in a given situation.

differences related to teaching students with various educational needs. More and more teachers feel personally responsible for the selection of the methods and measures that will enable all students to learn in a way accessible to them. There are academic teachers who consider the presence of a disabled person in their student group not as a problem to overcome but as a challenge and opportunity to expand their skills. It should be emphasised here that a large part of the solutions implemented because of the needs of people with disabilities is also beneficial for the entire student group. Earlier preparation for classes, good description of a chart, clear presentation or a list of references provided in advance have an impact on the results of all students, thus increasing the effectiveness of teaching. The academic model of educational support

Many questions When a student is granted a consent to have the education process adapted to his or her needs, the JU DSS officers inform his or her teachers about the necessary solutions. Thanks to detailed guidelines, teachers know what to do to ensure full access to education for the student. Not always are the solutions proposed fully fit for the characteristics of a given course. Sometimes, students may take advantage of their disability to justify various omissions or shortcomings. In both cases, the simplest solution is to consult a JU DSS officer. For example, JU DSS receives a phone call from a teacher who wants to find out whether he may refuse to grant credits to a student with a disability because of her high absence rate. The student’s disability caused difficulties with handwriting, which is why she could record classes on a dictaphone, her test writing time was extended and instead of written tests involving longer answers she took oral exams. The consequences of her disability, however, had no impact on an increased absence rate. Thanks to the consultation, the teacher made sure that the student did not meet the credit requirement for other reasons than her health condition. Questions are a powerful tool in helping you to define the thin line dividing the right response to the student’s needs from unjustified privilege, unfair for non-disabled students.

Fair does not mean in equal shares Providing equal educational opportunities is often linked with the need to take extra efforts, to extend one’s competencies, to spend time preparing teaching materials in the form adjusted to the needs of people with disabilities. During our cooperation with academic teachers we have noticed increased awareness of

A positive example illustrating the changes mentioned above is the attitude of one teacher who had a student unable to come to class because of his disability. Many a time, the teacher of the course provided the student with articles which were difficult to access and other teaching materials. She made sure that he had the same opportunity to prepare for the exam as other students. She also came up with the idea of placing teaching materials on her website, accessible for all her students. She also consulted the specialists of JU DSS on the technologies supporting the exam form to make sure that it accommodated the student’s needs. What she did proved that she was to a great extent aware of her own role, which was to transfer knowledge to all students in a way adjusted to their needs.

Claims and concessions vs. rights and obligations The ideas of the Convention are increasingly better understood, also by the people with disabilities themselves. The number of students with a claiming attitude (“I am entitled to it”) is decreasing year by year. Students who take advantage of the JU DSS support are more and more frequently aware of their rights as well as obligations. They understand that the disability certificate they have does not release them from the need to comply with their academic obligations. In my experience so far I have had the pleasure to work with a blind student who very much wanted to be entitled to take exams in a written form. This option was available on the condition that some technical adaptations were provided. He needed the computer with the right kind of software, the time limit extension at the exam and a separate room. Although most exams were in writing, the student had only been examined orally so far. This solution was simpler for organisational reasons and more convenient for teachers. But teachers did not take a broader context of the situation into account while making their decisions. The student’s good results Equality News  3 (4)/2013


were soon considered a consequence of preferential treatment. Oral exams in his faculty were commonly seen as easier. Requesting an adaptation as close to the standard form as possible, the student wanted to have an equal opportunity to demonstrate his knowledge. He wanted to prove that his grades reflected his own work, not the mercy of his teachers. More and more often, reliefs and privileges are perceived by people with disabilities as discriminating activities.

The inalienable right to be wrong

neurological, mental or endocrine background and the fear of public speaking may affect persons with speech impediments, mental health difficulties as well as those who are hard of hearing. If you do not want to get lost in this labyrinth, you have to look for tailor-made solutions. To ensure the right kind of adaptation, a JU DSS officer must conduct a personal interview with the student and analyse his or her medical documentation confirming the nature of difficulties encountered. Additionally, the characteristics of his or her field of study and credit requirements for individual subjects must be taken into account.

Over those several years of the JU DSS existence, officers for student matters have participated in many Our daily work with students has shown us that, lessons in equal treatment. In the context of self- apart from the abovementioned conditions, it is also reliance and subjectivity, the most educational are the necessary to take into account the student’s personal situations when irrational decisions made by students style of studying and his or her educational experiences must be respected. It is hard to accept it when they so far. unnecessarily contend with the limitations and barriers and abandon support in the situations when it seems Sometimes, tactile images may be useless for blind necessary. An exceptional personal lesson for me was persons that have not applied them in prior learning. contact with a student with mental health difficulties A sign language interpreter may be of no use for deaf who, despite her long and turbulent illness history and persons who do not know this language but may play the symptoms hindering her daily life comfort, decided the role of a “lip speaker” for those who can read not to take advantage of the solutions proposed by from lips. The awareness of academic teachers in this area is also rising. Increasingly more JU DSS (including an increased of them realize that absences, absence rate, longer exam limited activity in class or poor session, extended time limit A large part of the test results do not have to be the for exams and a written exam solutions implemented consequence of the student’s instead of an oral one). The because of the needs of laziness or lack of knowledge. student wanted to check herself Numerous phone calls with people with disabilities in standard conditions. Although questions about possible forms is also beneficial for the it might seem that she failed of support for people in a difficult entire student group. (did not obtain credits for one health situation or experiencing semester), the experience was an a psychological crisis prove important lesson in subjectivity that the academic community for her. She reported that for becomes more and more aware of the first time in her life she could take an independent decision concerning herself and for the first time she the issues related to disability, including mental health could personally experience its consequences. It was an problems. extremely important experience for her and a failed year was the price she was willing to pay for it. Stairs instead of a lift

The cause-and-effect labyrinth Preparing the JU DSS offer of support for students with various educational needs we have developed a number of rules that should be followed to make it effective. One of them is individualisation. While selecting adequate solutions, it must be remembered that one kind of disability may generate various needs and the same difficulties may be a consequence of different health problems. Not every person with a disability has mobility problems and not every student with mental health difficulties skips classes. Problems with concentration and memory may have


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The above examples of academic practice demonstrate that the times when it was unthinkable for a disabled person to study at university have long been gone. A large majority of the academic community consider that people with disabilities are entitled to equal access to education, at least when voicing their opinions and declarations. Problems arise when a person with a disability becomes a student at their faculty or institute. He or she is has a real name, face and authentic needs that require a response and activities, often involving additional efforts or costs, must be taken here and now. These difficulties are especially evident when it is necessary to take systemic solutions, launch cooperation between units and change the old ways applied so far.

Photograph from JU DSS archive An adapted map of Italy for blind users

A good example here might be persons on wheelchairs who, because of architectural barriers at their institutes, need to have the classes transferred to rooms that meet accessibility requirements. Such adaptations often require a modification in a schedule that has already been finalised or incur additional costs if rooms must be hired outside the institute. The experiences so far have shown that we as a university are not always able to pass this test.

The myth of a panacea Another area to focus on is the awareness of competence division between various institutions and units. The UN Convention postulates equal access to education, culture and healthcare for people with disabilities, thus promoting their self-fulfilment in various areas of life and in various social roles. Also, at university, people with disabilities are active as, among others, students, academic teachers, dorm roommates, members of scientific clubs, administration staff or library users. This is why everyone should have equal access to all university units to be able to deal with their issues at the places designed for it. The entire academic community should care about equal access, which includes architectural adaptations of university buildings, compliance with accessibility standards for university websites and, above all, increasing people’s awareness and developing their competencies in responding to the diverse needs of people with disabilities. The aim is to enable every student to enjoy their time spent at university and every university employee to fulfil their professional duties and aspirations to the fullest extent.

Competence division is also important in our daily work. The disability policy which delegated responsibilities related to people with disabilities to separate institutions established for this very purpose produced a large group of proponents of the medical model of disability and, as a result of it, many see JU DSS as if it were a “ministry for all matters”. Sometimes students with disabilities want to meet all the needs in their lives, regardless of their nature, using the agency of JU DSS. Academic teachers, on the other hand, send students with disabilities to JU DSS with various matters as this is a place with “disability” in its name. The service is a university unit established in order to safeguard equal access to education. Following the social model of disability, not all matters of people with disabilities may be dealt with at JU DSS. All expectations concerning the fulfilment of needs other than academic are outside our remit. Administration staff members, academic teachers or the students themselves tend to forget about it. Good examples are situations when persons who have mobility problems and, as a result, may not be able to get to class or require the help of a personal assistant expect the university to provide this kind of support. But they also need an assistant to help them in their functional activities and personal hygiene in daily life outside university when they want to meet friends, travel or run errands. A personal assistant should be provided by other state institutions and because usually they are not, the students find it hard to understand that providing this kind of services is not the task or responsibility of the university. What Equality News  3 (4)/2013


the university can do is to keep intensifying activities for increasing the awareness of rights of people with disabilities among the academic community and elsewhere. Numerous publications, conferences and everyday work of JU DSS aim to achieve it.

Equal access to requirements One final issue that in my opinion requires further development is ensuring that university standards are met. Each university graduate should demonstrate a certain level of knowledge and abilities which will enable him or her to increase his competitiveness on the labour market. For people with disabilities, good education is also a pass to independent and worthy lives. Hence the quality of teaching in the context of disabilities is an especially vital issue. Following the division of tasks at university, teachers are responsible for the level of the education process, JU DSS takes care of the adaptations ensuring equal educational opportunities while students are responsible for their results. All three parties should take care of standards. Unfortunately, there are still incidents when some students employ disability as a tool in their struggle to obtain credits for a course. Among academic teachers there are also persons guided by pity, desire to ensure themselves peace of mind or wrongly understood political correctness while assessing whether their students with disabilities meet academic standards. And the idea of equal treatment may only be implemented provided that fairness and integrity are ensured.

In order to implement equal access to standards, academic teachers should continue to expand their own competencies related to teaching students with various educational needs and implement practical solutions ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Students with disabilities should take advantage of adaptations that are available and justified for them while the employees of JU DSS should continue to learn, look for new technologies and constantly improving solutions as well as make sure that university procedures are observed and adaptations for classes and exams are implemented in practice. These activities seem to be a sufficient guarantee of equality. The above examples of the implementation of the Convention in daily university practice prove that we as an academic community have overcome a number of barriers. The knowledge and experience acquired in the work with specific persons with disabilities have enabled us to mature. We have achieved a certain level of awareness that allows us to think that, by and large, we have done our academic homework in equality. Steadily increasing numbers of students with disabilities indicate that many challenges are still ahead of us, as proven by new, precedent cases. But greater openness and sensitivity to the needs of people with disabilities gives us hope that over the course of our collaboration we will be able to finish this homework. I am deeply convinced that one day disability awareness in our society will be so good that the existence of JU DSS as in its current form will cease to be necessary.

Maria Libiszewska – consultant for student matters at the Jagiellonian University Disability Support Service, psychologist, teaching educator, graduate of the Jagiellonian University Philosophical Faculty. Ms Libiszewska has worked as a teaching educator at a daycare sociotherapy centre, where she was in charge of, inter alia, psychoeducation classes as well as the delivery of internal educational projects. She is an experienced trainer and a qualified project manager. She has delivered training courses in active learning methods, creativity training and memory training.


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Integration through school and work, a fact or a myth? Professor Barbara Gąciarz, Faculty of Humanities at the AGH University of Science and Technology and the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences Patrycja Antosz, Jagiellonian University Institute of Sociology Paweł Rozmus, Jagiellonian University Institute of Sociology / Faculty of Humanities at the AGH University of Science and Technology Although the promotion of employment of persons with disabilities is deemed one of the key tools for their inclusion in society, the labour market is a space where the discrimination of that group is persistent. Their difficult situation is closely linked to restricted access to decent education. This article presents an in-depth picture of criss-crossing conditions and barriers in the educational system and the labour market, which result in the poor social integration of people with disabilities, which although progressing remains at a much insufficient level. The marginalisation of people with disabilities is a serious problem in Poland. One of the major reasons for this situation is difficult access to the open labour market while employment stability is one of the prerequisites of independent functioning and social integration of people with disabilities. In Poland, the employment indicator for persons having problems with daily functioning caused by limited mobility is among the lowest in Europe. In 2009, it was almost 33% for Poland (EU average equals 44.2%). Just to compare, the employment indicator for people without such difficulties was 65.5%, which is almost double, while for people with a formal certificate confirming disability it is even lower than for the group with mobility problems. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that the employment indicator for people with disabilities has experienced a slow, systematic growth since 2004 when it equalled 18.1%. People with disabilities encounter serious problems, especially on the open labour market. According to the data of June 2013 collected in the Subsidy and Refund Management System (SODiR)1 maintained by the State Fund for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (PFRON) the number of people with disabilities working 1 The data from the SODiR cover only companies which enjoy PFRON subsidies linked to the remuneration received by persons with disabilities. In reality, there are more businesses employing people with disabilities than those subsidised in that way. Moreover, as in principle double financing from the state budget is banned, employers financed from the state budget do not enjoy access to such a subsidy mechanism.

at supported employment enterprises was more than double the number of those employed in the open labour market, although there was an increase in the latter as compared with the previous years. The largest group of people with disabilities employed both in the open labour market and in supported employment enterprises includes individuals with a moderate degree of disability. The open labour market maintains more persons with disabilities in employment than supported employment enterprises, the exact numbers being 2.3% more for persons with a serious degree of disability and 13% more for persons with a mild degree of disability. A variety of factors contribute to the difficult situation experienced by people with disabilities in the open labour market. On the one hand, it is caused by unwillingness to hire people with impairments. On the other, insufficient vocational preparation carries the blame. Yet another factor is related to the willingness to start work by those interested, which is influenced by their personal motivation as well as specific conditions of the assistance system (e.g. a welfare benefit is dependent on whether the person finds employment and receives remuneration, there is no stability of employment). All these factors will be discussed in detail in other sections of this article.

Acceptance of disability accompanied by reluctance to employ persons with disabilities About a third of people who have personally come into contact with persons with disabilities know that, because Equality News  3 (4)/2013


of their health condition, individuals with disabilities have been subject to unfair treatment. What is more, Poles are convinced that unequal treatment of people with disabilities is a social problem in Poland. This opinion is shared by 43% of society members (Antosz, 2012). Social awareness of the problem is almost as high as the awareness of the problem of unequal treatment caused by a psycho-sexual orientation and sexual identity (almost 50% of Poles think that unequal treatment of the members of LGBT community is a common phenomenon in our country). The labour market is no exception to the rule. In the nation-wide, representative study conducted as part of the project “Equal treatment as a good governance standard” (Antosz, 2012), the respondents were asked to arrange the profiles of male and female candidates for a job in the same order as they would like to employ them as public servants working in an office. The participants of the study received information that the persons to be recruited had the same education, competencies and experience. The only features that differed were gender, age and disability. It turned out that disability was the most important factor eliminating candidates in the recruitment process. Blind and hard of hearing people were in the most disadvantaged situation. Those on wheelchairs were slightly better off. Although not all respondents were decision makers in recruitment processes, it is true that employers consider non-disability of the recruited employee an extremely important factor. They are more willing to offer jobs to people with heart conditions and cardiovascular diseases or severe mobility impairments. The determining criterion in this case is a certificate confirming the degree of disability. It opens up the options of co-financing for the employer while, at the same time, few additional adaptations are required at the workplace. The situation of people with mental health disabilities on the labour market is much worse due to the insufficient level of awareness and greater social distance. In order to offer them jobs, the employer must be really involved in adapting the workplace and the company environment to their special needs, which sometime includes training for other staff members (Gąciarz, Giermanowska 2009). According to the data provided by the National Health Survey Poland (2011), those who are in employment have a mild or moderate rather than severe degree of disability. As indicated by B. Gąciarz and E. Giermanowska (2009), employers often lack adequate knowledge about the complex regulations governing the employment of people with disabilities and the resultant privileges and obligations. A complex co-financing procedure cannot be an incentive to offer work, especially that hiring a person with a disability entails some risk from the employer’s perspective. First of all, employers are afraid of the costs related to the adaptation of the workplace to the needs of the new employee (MindShare 2007) and, additionally,


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concerned about the work effectiveness of employees with disabilities because of the privileges they enjoy (Gąciarz, Giermanowska 2009), such as: shorter working hours (for all employees with disability certificate in the past and only for those who obtain a doctor’s opinion justifying such a need at present), additional breaks at work or a longer holiday leave (which may be used for rehabilitation). The negative perception of a disabled employee is also caused by the employer’s concern about maintaining the required speed and flexibility at work and greater susceptibility to illnesses. Primarily, these are stereotypes, not confirmed by facts. Regretfully, the public sector is not significantly different from the private sector. Most public administration units pay fines every year (contributing to the budget of PFRON) for not achieving the level of employment required by the law (people with disabilities should make 6% of the workforce in the enterprises having 25 and more full-time employees). Preventive measure are being taken. In late 2011, as part of the provision of equal opportunities in public administration, the Civil Service Act was amended (O.J. 2011, no 201, item 1183) with an aim to ensure priority for people with disabilities in applying for positions in civil service, state offices and local government units if their proportion among the workforce at a given office was lower than 6% and the candidate was among the top five considered for the job as a result of the recruitment process. However, as proven by the way the new provisions are applied (on the basis of opinions expressed by NGOs and media reports), access to these workplaces is, in fact, limited for people with disabilities because of architectural barriers, common in office buildings. Additionally, directors of offices tend not to do anything to adapt the abovementioned workplaces (even by moving the employee to the ground floor of the building) and people with disabilities are indirectly eliminated as early as at the stage of recruitment (e.g. the job ad includes information about the need to work at a higher level than the ground floor in a building with no elevator). The fact that the provisions of the law may bear no consequences for the situation in practice is confirmed by the recent results of the audit performed by the Chief Audit Office (NIK) showing that as of June 2012 the employment indicator which exceeded the statutory value of 6% was observed only for PFRON (12.4%), the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression (7.4%), 7 out of 16 Regional Statistical Offices and for the Statistical Research and Education Centre of the Chief Statistical Office. The level achieved by the Ministry of the Treasury was close to the requirements (5.8%) and, after downsizing in late 2012, satisfied the statutory requirements although the number of personnel with disabilities did not increase. For most institutions, this indicator did not exceed 1% and the insignificant growth of the workforce with disabilities, observed since 2010, was primarily the result of awarding disability certificates to people who had already been

disability among teachers (no skills to handle students with disability, no educational materials).

in employment or employee transfers and take-overs (Supreme Audit Office 2013).

Another barrier within the system is the practice of sending young people to schools for students with special needs or providing them with individual tuition. Both often result in poor quality of the student’s knowledge and skills (lower requirements). Additionally, this limits their contacts with peers and social integration with nondisabled persons. The mechanism reinforces the process of educational marginalisation and discrimination of people with disabilities. The problems of jurisdiction on the need of special education (mostly limited to adjudicating it far too often without any clear grounds) was discussed in the monitoring report entitled The right to education of children with special educational needs, published by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in 2010. On the basis of interviews with managers of the education department/ team and headmasters and teachers from elementary and lower secondary schools in 61 communes (121 schools) it was concluded that the decision-making process related to the need of providing special education is too long, and the decisions, expressed using unclear language and specialist terminology, are often formulaic and too general bearing little resemblance to reality. This is why it is difficult to implement them or use them while working with students, hence they only become an excuse for lowering educational expectations. The conclusions of the report indicate there are no specialists (psychologists and social therapists) at schools teaching students with certificates confirming special educational needs and teachers are not sufficiently prepared to work with students of various levels of educational ability. Additional activities offered by schools seldom take on a dimension of programmes accommodating individual needs. Instead, they are used as a tool to make up for the current shortcomings. Moreover, individual tuition offered by most lower secondary and upper secondary schools is long-term, not temporary, and often treated as a way of solving problems with difficult

Insufficient vocational preparation of persons with disabilities Education is one of the most important factors determining the professional activity of individuals. Just like for nondisabled people, those with disabilities who have the greatest chance for finding employment are university graduates. Considering preparation to work among people with disabilities, it is necessary to separate their level of education from the fact whether their competencies and skills achieved as part of the education process are fit for the needs of the labour market. First of all, people with disabilities in general have lower education than non-disabled individuals. The proportion of those with secondary school and university diplomas is much smaller among the people who have a certificate confirming their disability while the group with just an elementary school certificate or no formal education is much more numerous. Detailed information can be found in chart 1 (Central Statistical Office 2011). It should be emphasised that, in general, the structure of the group with disabilities is not a result of intentional discrimination against them in the education system, but a consequence of the social stereotypes related to their educational abilities. Both teachers and people with disabilities as well as their families are aware of them. This kind of convictions result in low educational aspirations of people with disabilities who have no faith in their skills or the sense of a long-term education process, which is only reinforced by fact that the school system is not sufficiently prepared to teach students with disabilities. The lack of preparation is confirmed, among others, by the barriers related to architecture and transport (students find it difficult to get to school) as well as no understanding of

Table 1. Percentage of people with various types of education in non-disabled and disabled populations over 15 years of age in 2009.

Type of education

Disability certificate




basic vocational

lower secondary


no education

total [%]



















Source: based on data from the Central Statistical Office, 2009 National Health Survey Poland. Equality News  3 (4)/2013


students or non-existent adaptations for a person with jobs workers that offer outdated curricula, out of touch with a specific disability in the school building (the reasons are the market requirements. According to the authors of the related to logistics, not the nature of the problem). The Survey of how the content and level of education influence report indicates that in every tenth school students are the occupational activity of persons with disabilities (carried offered individual tuition for other reasons than those out by PENTOR and commissioned by PFRON in 2009) related to their personal needs. What is more, the number vocational schools most commonly selected by students of hours is determined by the funds available and the child’s with disabilities teach less effectively. Education at this behaviour, not his or her real needs, while the selection kind of schools is determined by the resources available to the school, not the needs of the of subjects may be limited or subjects labour market. These institutions may be taught collectively in order are resistant to curriculum to reduce the number of teachers It is a discriminatory changes (PENTOR 2009:8). One working with the child (HFPC 2010). practice against people of the experts interviewed as part It is a discriminatory practice against with disabilities in the of the project “Equal treatment as people with disabilities in the area of area of education not to a good governance standard” said education not to provide them with that vocational schools for students fully accessible materials, taking into provide them with fully with special needs often provided consideration the student’s specific accessible materials, training in the jobs for which people disability. Schools deal with this taking into consideration with disabilities would definitely kind of shortcomings by lowering the student’s specific not be recruited. the exam criteria for students who disability. have not been provided with the As to the selection of a university necessary materials. Despite the fact major, students with disabilities that access to the necessary school tend to pick the field related to their books and additional books for children passions and interests, something they would like to be with mental health disabilities as well as publications for blind, partially sighted and deaf students are safeguarded doing (in their dreams), which may not correspond to the by the law (art 71d of the Education System Act), there person’s actual abilities (sometimes limited by a disability). is no secondary legislation to implement it, so the books In this context, it seems that as early as at the secondary are purchased in the public procurement process, which school stage it is necessary to emphasise the role of careers delays their supply to students (Supreme Audit Office 2009 officers as well as the ability to develop a realistic career and Foundation Institute for Regional Development 2008). plan for students with disabilities. On the other hand, the trends recently observed in Poland have been positive as the number of students provided with individual tuition has been decreasing, just like the number of children receiving training at schools for students with special needs at various levels of education. Universities have also seen a gradual increase of students with disabilities in the recent years. But experts dealing with the issues of people with disabilities notice that the numbers of graduates with disabilities are still very small. Concluding, we can observe the onset of a positive change. But the philosophy of education to a large extent is based on the preference for special-needs education or individual tuition. Inclusive education (provided by state schools), considered the most effective, is not treated as a priority in Poland. As a result, the low level of education among the majority of people with disabilities still prevails and works against them as a discriminating factor on the labour market, also limiting their opportunities of participation in social life. An additional problem is posed by the competencies and skills of people with disabilities which are ill-fit for the needs of the labour market. The largest group among special schools in Poland are the establishments providing vocational training in blue-collar


3 (4)/2013   Equality News

The willingness to start as an employee on the part of persons with disabilities does not depend on motivation only Employers are not the only ones to be blamed for the fact that people with disabilities are jobless. From the perspective of a person with a disability, the mechanism operating here is the so-called “benefit trap”, i.e. he or she will lose the right to receive a welfare benefit if his or her income exceeds the level of 70% of the average wage for the last quarter. Moreover, persons with temporary certificates confirming their disability do not want to start work for the fear that the certificate might fail to be extended. They think that when they take up a job, the doctor will refuse to extend the certificate they have or will issue another one confirming a lower level of disability. This automatically results in the loss or reduction of benefits received so far. As the general situation of the labour market is difficult and unstable (unlimited employment contracts are hard to get, remuneration is low), people with disabilities who decide to give up (or suspend) their welfare benefits are few and far between for the fear of losing uninterrupted social insurance (which may still be enjoyed by those performing temporary jobs).

The PENTOR report (2009) that has already been referred to in this article includes the models explaining why people are willing to work with co-workers with disabilities. The main factors indicated were: individual attitudes towards work (which explains why the level of willingness is 16 % for hard of hearing employees, while up to 28% for blind persons) self-assessment of competencies and skills (from 12% for blind persons to 18% for deaf persons) and the health condition and self-reliance (from 11% for persons with mental health illnesses to 17% for deaf individuals). The interesting discovery is that, following the report, to a very little extent is the willingness to start work among people with disabilities determined by the level of education or such social or demographic variables as gender, age and the place of residence. The above data confirm the need to invest in the development of the so called soft skills stimulating internal motivation to take up employment and raising self-esteem among people with disabilities, although, at the same time, one should not forget about the necessary changes in the education system (emphasis on inclusive education, accessibility of schools and educational materials, teacher training, updated curricula), the instruments of financial assistance and the activity of the labour market institutions (decoupling welfare benefits from income or raising the allowance threshold due to greater financial needs related to disability, better communication between institutions supporting people with disabilities and employers). It is also necessary to carry out systematic activities aimed at the change of social awareness. In this context it must be said that effective social integration of people with disabilities must occur on many levels, including changes of the law and the system in place and, above all, greater awareness and change of mentality (among people with disabilities as well as society as a whole). It is evident that education (and teachers providing it) occupies a special place in this context as it is the most effective tool to influence competencies, both professional and social. Educational shortcomings are of key importance because they lock people up in the vicious circle of exclusion (no knowledge = stereotypes and low competencies = difficult situation on the labour market = marginalisation and exclusion).

Cited references: • Antosz P., 2012. Równe traktowanie standardem dobrego rządzenia. Raport z badań sondażowych [Equal treatment as a good governance standard. A survey report], available at: www.siecrownosci. gov.pl/gfx/siecrownosci/userfiles/_public/raporty/ rowne_traktowanie_raport_z_badan_ilosciowych.pdf [2.10.13]. • BAEL, 2013. Labour Force Survey from Q1 2010 to Q2 2013 reviewed after the 2011 National Census, available

at: www.niepelnosprawni.gov.pl/niepelnosprawnoscw-liczbach-/bael/ [2.10.13]. Foundation Institute for Regional Development, 2008. Czarna Księga Dyskryminacji – Polska droga do Konwencji o prawach osób niepełnosprawnych ONZ [The black paper on discrimination: the Polish Road towards the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities], Krakow, available at: www.firr.org.pl/ uploads/PUB/Czarna_ksiega_www.pdf [2.10.13]. Gąciarz B., Giermanowska E. (eds), 2009. Zatrudniając niepełnosprawnych. Wiedza, opinie i doświadczenia pracodawców [Employing persons with disabilities. Knowledge, opinions and experiences of employers], Warsaw: ISP. Central Statistical Office, 2011. Stan zdrowia ludności Polski w 2009 r. [2009 National Health Survey Poland], Warsaw, accessible at: www.stat. gov.pl/cps/rde/xbcr/ gus/ZO_stan_zdrowia_2009.pdf [2.10.13]. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, 2010. Prawo do edukacji dzieci o specjalnych potrzebach edukacyjnych (raport z monitoringu) [The right to education of children with special educational needs (a monitoring report)], available at: www.hfhrpol.waw.pl/pliki/ Monitoring_Prawo_do_edukacji_dzieci.pdf [2.10.13]. MindShare, 2007. Prezentacja Raportu z badania CATI w ramach projektu „Wsparcie zatrudnienia osób niepełnosprawnych na otwartym rynku pracy [Presentation of the CATI survey report as part of the Project „Supporting the employment of persons with disabilities on the open labour market”], available at: www.pfron.org.pl/zwi/zwi.nsf/WWW/8A944B38BE8A DD91C1257139002B84C6/$FILE/Wyniki_badan_cati.pdf [17.09.2013]. Supreme Audit Office, 2009. Informacja o wynikach kontroli organizacji i finansowania szkolnictwa specjalnego [Audit report: organisation and financing of special education], Warsaw, available at: www.nik. gov.pl/kontrole/wyniki-kontroli-nik/kontrole,3810.html [2.10.13]. Supreme Audit Office, 2013. Informacja o wynikach kontroli: Zatrudnienie osób niepełnosprawnych w wybranych ministerstwach, urzędach centralnych i państwowych jednostkach organizacyjnych [Audit report: employment of persons with disabilities in selected ministries, central offices and state organisational units], Warsaw, available at: www.nik. gov.pl/plik/id,5180,vp,6707.pdf [2.10.13]. PENTOR, 2009. Badania wpływu kierunku i poziomu wykształcenia na aktywność zawodową osób niepełnosprawnych – Raport końcowy Część 1 z 6 [Survey of how the content and level of education influence the occupational activity of persons with disabilities], available at: www.pfron.org.pl/ftp/ dokumenty/Badania_i_analizy/Raport_CZESC_1z6_ final.pdf [14.09.13].

Equality News  3 (4)/2013




targets students who require educational support because of disability or health issues. We also invite academic teachers and administration personnel who wish to improve their qualifications as regards the accessibility of university programmes vis à vis the needs of persons with disabilities. THE BENEFITS OF COOPERATION BETWEEN STUDENTS AND THE DSS ARE: z drafting of an educational support strategy z format-adapted courses and examinations z cooperation of the Service’s student affairs consultants with academic teachers/lecturers z guidance concerning modern technological solutions z English language classes for blind, partially sighted, deaf and hard of hearing students in a multimedia language workroom z adaptation of teaching materials to electronic or Braille formats for blind persons z agency or mediation in communication with other University units, if necessary

ul. Retoryka 1/210, 31-108 Kraków • tel.: (0048) 12 424 29 50 • e-mail: bon@uj.edu.pl

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st mic teac ade he ac rs


OUR MISSION STATEMENT z The mission of our Service is to enable disabled students of the Jagiellonian University equal access to its educational offer, regardless of the kind and degree of disability. z We strive to ensure that no student is disqualified at the beginning or during their studies because of disabilities or learning difficulties. z We oppose all kinds of open or hidden discrimination. z We support the constitutional right of disabled people to education, work and full participation in social life as we deeply believe this to be justified on both human and economic grounds. z In our activities we are guided by the provisions of the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by Poland in September 2012. z We also support all efforts aimed at the enforcement of the provisions of the Convention. z In our way of thinking and actions we are inspired by the ideals of Jagiellonian Poland, tolerant and open for all citizens.


You are kindly invited to use the rich offer available at the educational portal darelearning.eu! It was developed with academic teachers in mind so that they can learn more about modern teaching methods while working with disabled persons. We are convinced that the information found there will be of use also for secondary-school educators. The offer of the portal includes educational suggestions and adaptations, film materials and interesting publications. To receive updated information and keep abreast of new developments just write to us at kontakt@darelearning.eu. The DARe-Learning project is about learning from each other. We become familiar with our own and each other’s needs, also those stemming from specific types and degrees of disability. We all learn so as to create and develop better knowledge societies, where no-one is excluded on grounds of his/her disability or for any other reason.

More at www.darelearning.eu

The project carried out with financial support of the European Commission as part of the Lifelong Learning programme