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EDF / Euni4all network meeting on 16/12/22

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

On December 16, LAVA / EUCAP participated in a meeting of the European Network of Universities Working for Inclusion (EUni4all network), co-organized by the European Disability Fund and hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee.

This event was an occasion to showcase the work accomplished so far. It brought together experts, researchers and faculty members, members of European institutions and the Erasmus student program, representatives of students and staff with disabilities with the goal to improve inclusivity of universities and student mobility programs.

A significant work has been done. The network has put together a guide of standards that determine how inclusive a university is of students and staff with disabilities. Those are not only indicators of physical and cognitive accessibility, they also assess whether assistance or counselling are provided, the existence of satisfaction surveys etc. A wide range of disabilities are taken into account, and it is to be noted that some universities have begun to accept students with learning disabilities. A question about sensory accessibility for autistic students was met with a positive response and a clear interest from university participants. There is awareness of the issue even without a specific mention in the guide. The guide is meant as a tool for improvement, and is itself subject to an improvement process.

64 universities have participated so far, and they are listed in a guide mapping out the present situation of each university regarding the standards of accessibility. Shockingly not a single Belgian university participated. The guide will allow students with disabilities to make choices, and universities to self-assess and improve. Some are models to follow in some respects, all have paths for improvement.

Training courses have been set up for university staff. They include making them aware of the barriers students with disabilities face and teaching them how to make those students aware of their rights under UN CRPD art. 24, encourage them to claim them, and involve them in the process of improving inclusion.

Barriers to inclusion of persons with disabilities are not just health-related: they are economic, social, intersectional. They exist not just on campus but in the city around it, and beyond that they cannot be separated from other economic, social, cultural, legal and international barriers (African students).

There is a lot of progress as evidenced by a growing number of students with disabilities, but there is still a long way to go. A vivid testimony by a wheelchair-using student in Hungary and the Netherlands showed the many hurdles he faced, and how limited his rights were in both countries even today (as a foreign EU student in the Netherlands he did not have the rights enjoyed by Dutch people). "Nothing about us without us" remains crucial in this process.

An informative and accessible website has been set up as a key part of the project. Universities who want to participate can complete a questionnaire on:

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