British Council Study Tour Report

British Council Study Tour Report

Disability Rights Program British Council UK-Study visit 13th-21st November 2004 A summary of a 40 page report: Disability support for university students. Proposals for Turkey

This is only the summary of a 40-page report on what I learnt during my 8-day visit. When I have time, I intend to revise the longer document as a general guide for universities similar to the Middle East Technical University, in countries, which like Turkey do not yet have the legislation, financial provision or infrastructure to establish what is now becoming the norm in Britain. Apologies for incorrect language: I am still learning, and some comments relate to current cultural and social realities.

Aims and principles

–To increase equality of access of disabled students to all aspects of university life. This will increase the success levels of students currently failing because of non-inclusive design and attitudes. Without guaranteed funding, a realistic aim is to improve provision; aim for what is practical, what CAN be done, rather than an ideal. A vision will lead the way, but focus on individual practical steps. While aiming for an ideal, look at where the blocks are, where students and potential students are having difficulties.

–All work to be done in consultation with disabled students and all other stakeholders, empowered to be able to understand the issues. Criteria, priorities and alternatives will be discussed and agreed by working parties and networks. Always include feedback loops.

–To increase the number of disabled students known to be studying at universities, encourage people to disclose, by offering real benefits. Be clear about what you can do, who you are addressing and how. The more visible and active disabled students are, the less public prejudice there will be, the greater the students’ confidence, the more disabled students will graduate successfully, the more will apply for university study, etc. J

— In order to have control, disabled students need to become more informed about their disabilities and they should understand their conditions, to make more informed decisions and to be able to explain to others, e.g. teachers or classmates.

–To increase staff awareness of how they can affect a student’s learning opportunities. At this stage in Turkey we have no legal obligation, so need to focus on good will.

— Services evolve from what they are initially intended for – a structure that answers apparent needs of the day – to what it becomes once awareness of deeper needs, priorities and opportunities (e.g. cooperation with…) change parameters. Keep an open mind. Revise and question: brainstorm, ‘With hindsight would I have done X differently?’ A service provider may become a manager and coordinator of services delegated to specialists: trainer, assessor, or assistant. A managerial service requires more administrative support. Upgraded, a disability officer will require training in management skills.
First steps:

–Identify criteria (who, when, where, what). By knowing what you are aiming for, the path is clearer –Evaluate the situation; look at 1) what needs to be done and 2) what can be done. –Gather evidence (statistics and case studies) and produce reports –Start with informed guesses, (without expecting 100% success), then juggle around to maximise quality. –Prepare ‘action plans’, identifying future tasks, including policy development, with named people for each responsibility and deadlines. A 5-year plan allows progress to be checked against predictions, which are then reviewed. Practice Û Strategy –Identify stakeholders. Some are obvious but others will appear in time. Some may be actively involved in consultation processes while others may just wish to receive reports. –Twin with a UK university, to develop a disability support program that could then be a model for universities throughout Turkey . Such a twinning would provide a channel of communication, a source of information, examples of good practice, consultation when developing documents, policies and strategies, and mentoring for the first disability adviser in Turkey . If twinning is not possible, how can mentoring be arranged? –Investigate existing support programs (Careers advice, counselling, etc). What is needed to make them more inclusive? Could collaboration generate a new service answering specific needs of disabled students? –Do not rush: A pioneer must take the time to explore the situation and evaluate different options. Establish pilot schemes, to be monitored and amended. Be prepared to share, in all honesty, the results and implications, and frankly analyse the outcomes.
Cooperation:

–Cooperation will provide a broader outlook, opportunities for reflection and comparing notes, advice when handling something new, a pool of ideas, more contacts, etc. Connect in different directions:

•The university administration •Departments at the university •Other universities in the same city. •A nation-wide communication network, similar to DISFORUM. • Disability expertise abroad.

–Core centres, in towns with several universities, could maximise efficiency of support and expertise, but how would they be set up to guarantee fair provision? What about funding? –Political lobbying is little used in Turkey . How can it be improved, coordinated? Who to involve? How to motivate? How to empower? –Volunteers, if trained, can be responsible for a number of duties. For example, an e-notice board on METU web page could offer jobs and seek volunteers. If connected to Careers Planning, volunteering would be seen as enhancing future employability, by providing students with work experience. Notices should describe 1.duties and 2.benefit to volunteer. If possible the ‘employer’ should be prepared to write a reference when the student later applies for jobs.

 

Systems:

–The UK examples show clearly some of the difficulties encountered in establishing such a new field. What are the standards? Who will assess? How will assessors be trained? What experience and knowledge should Disability Officers have: on interview, and after induction. Without qualifications, new members of staff are ‘formed on the job’. –A disability officer needs to be integrated within the administrative framework and have some degree of authority. –A committee involving all stakeholders will meet regularly to discuss relevant issues. Disabled students will be key participants. –Access and inclusive provision should be automatically programmed into every new project (buildings, transport, distance learning, etc). Existing systems, such as library services and computer systems, should, over a period of time, be reviewed to address the needs of all potential users. –Each student will have a Personal Learning Plan, develop with the Disability Support Coordinator and the department, identifying adjustments that will be provided. –In the UK , some disabled students may have a Personal Support Worker (PSW). At the moment, even if funding was no problem, we do not have people trained for the task. Rather than trying to copy what has been done elsewhere, we should analyse the needs of our disabled students, investigate what options are available and see how the needs can be provided for. How can we provide even parts of this PSW function? Who will do it? Who will train them? How / will they be funded or get another incentive? Can volunteers do this? –A pool of volunteers, trained, and paid per hour, can be recruited through the Careers Office, or via a university website. -Frequently used equipment, from a central pool, can be loaned to students during their studies. For less frequently used more expensive equipment, a joint pool between universities in one town could be established. –In Turkey a national office is responsible for giving out the Disability Identity Card (Ozurlu Kimlik Karti, OKK), entitling the owner to a number of discounts, services, etc. Many people are currently reluctant to apply, as the process is ineffective. If this system worked effectively, with less bureaucracy and standardised criteria, the card could then serve as the national document is was designed to be. A credible, recognised OKK would avoid individuals having to repeatedly document their condition. It could also become recognised by universities and other organisations, allowing a quick but effective identification of individuals with different needs. A working party should be set up, involving all parties, to consider all aspects of the process and its implications.

Funding –In the UK disability support work is strongly dictated by both legislation and available state funding. Therefore, much of the provision aims at ensuring those entitled to funds get them. In Turkey , without obvious sources of funding, and without legal obligations, we have to be more creative, but we are also freer to look at other options: for instance, solutions involving personal commitment, peer involvement, and other (more Eastern) approaches, as well as cooperation with local councils, private sponsors, industry, etc. We are in a position to lead the way to explore ways that suit Turkish culture, economic opportunities, social structure, etc.

–For initial funding of a Turkish project, EU funding is now available. Should we do this alone, or as one player in an international project? –For continuous national funding, state sources include the Prime Ministry, the Ministry of Education, the Higher Education Council, foundations eg Sabanci and graduates’ associations. Access to university funds depends on convincing key authorities; however, currently, in view of the low numbers of disabled students, they see no justification for this support. A variety of options should be investigated, for both short and long-term targets. Sponsors are most interested in clearly defined projects, so be specific. –In the UK , funding is given to individual students. In Turkey sponsors are attracted to this, being able to have a donation ceremony, with photos for their records, media, etc. Look for organisations that already provide scholarships, graduates of the same university willing to give individual sponsorships of disabled students.
Alternatives –The most important is to understand the process of analysing the difficulty (in full detail, looking for causes), investigate options and be creative; the aim is to push back the limits! –In time, the mind becomes more flexible, freer from the status quo, better able to analyse a problem, identify where difficulties arise and generate alternative options. –As many people are disabled by unsuitable systems, alternatives become visible when fundamental purposes and design are reconsidered (Social model of disability). Development of a number of cost-free alternatives could rapidly bring solutions and encourage many more people to become active (then justification for funding for more complex difficulties becomes more apparent). — More inclusive design brings benefits for many. Turkey could provide a model more generally applicable worldwide, in areas with limited funds and less developed infrastructure. –Exam conditions (a range of acceptable adjustments to be standardised) need to be agreed, within each university, and if possible nationally (national university entrance exam, post-graduate exams, etc). Standardisation is critical; both the regular exams and the adjusted forms need to maintain recognised value. –Alternative formats often require technology; ‘Does one Braille user justify such an expense, when existing equipment is never touched?’ In a university with electronic provision for all, we are able to benefit from the many sources on the Internet, accessible through ‘ndteam’, ‘skill’ and other sites. — A growing list of cost-free adjustments is given in the 40-page report on my November visit. –Textbooks (for disabled students) are put on disks for free in Norway and the UK ; contact the editors.

Changing attitudes

–By focussing on the Social Model of Disability, people learn to view situations from a different perspective, question assumptions and revise provision. –While considering the immediate needs of current students, we also need to see how our project can have long-term impact of increased general facilities; raised public awareness will then have repercussions throughout society. –Consider how language is used. While some in Turkey feel there are higher priorities, research could start on collecting examples of ‘discomforting language’, to be used later in a campaign –The media are very powerful. As well as using newspapers, radio and TV to get our message across, we can raise media awareness, challenging them to move from the ‘suffering’ to the positives. Debates on disability and related subjects can be recorded and edited, with comments and advice from policy makers, and then become materials for further development. –A ‘Speakers’ Bureau’, through which disabled students give presentations (after doing research, to include more than their own personal situation) about disability. This develops their confidence and speaking skills while positively affecting public images of disability. Once a core group of confident disabled people has formed, they can be involved in areas such as training (e.g. for taxi drivers, bank staff, local authorities, etc)…. to be done by disabled people, not about them.

11.2004 study visit to Manchester , London and Bristol . For full report, contact Claire Ozel, clair@metu.edu.tr

 

DONE since returning from Britain :

METU has appointed a Disability Support Coordinator (me). Desk, bookcase and computer provided. Still awaiting phone, Internet connection and business card. One day per week released from English teaching for disability support role. A qualified social worker has volunteered to work with me. Initial campus access survey; ramp proposals for two key locations in process. Cooperation with Registrar: 15 points identified. One member of staff, herself a disabled METU graduate, has volunteered to be responsible for all issues relating to disabled students. She is also in a position to ensure accessible classrooms and exam rooms are allocated where necessary. Cooperation with Medical Centre: Accident report form prepared, meeting with staff to be arranged. Cooperation with Guidance Counsellors for skills analysis Contact with Careers Planning about a possible ‘skills for employment’ program Contact with Rotary Club; possible student mentoring and work experience. Contact with university-based Techno Park , for sponsorship, etc A 3-credit course in Educational Sciences: ‘Working with Disabled Learners’ set up for Education Faculty students. Quota (30 students) filled on 2 nd day of registration. Students have begun writing up their experiences, to be used as material for training teachers. Personal Learning Plan concept introduced to students. Some interested. One department contacted has readily made a concession; further talks next week. Disabled personnel called to a meeting to discuss problems and needs. Report will be taken to departments such as Contact with University of Jordan disability support coordinator Contact with Syrian minister for family affairs, for Homs University contact. I have enrolled on first module of U of Bath/DARE distance learning MA. I attended a course on ‘High Performance Teamwork’.