EAIE with a difference

“Just one question: What happens for disabled students at your university?

Some disability officers (Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey). University disability offices in Botswana and Jamaica.  A Mexican dean accused of ‘wasting money’ on accessible toilets. An “unforgettable Polish Erasmus student who got around town on his skate board: no legs, one arm”.  A disability officers’ list in Japanese. A blind PhD holder in Nepal. A deputy-rector aware through his disabled child.  Ugandan students needing solutions. Spanish-Crimean disability project.  How many information booklets have images of disability: South Africa 2009; … yours in 2010?

How many disabled participants among the 3500 attending EAIE Madrid?  350 expected according to UN estimates: 10% disabled in any population.  Clear representation at conference opening, by sponsor ONCE. But most disabilities are unseen:  “Heavy bags; Bad back”; no seats to rest.  ‘Sorry, what did you say?’; lip readers need light.  Metabolic disorders require warm rooms.

The 4 day marathon empowered, challenging each to manage limited energy, accessing information, understanding new systems, going beyond pain, to seize opportunities.

Do I dare volunteer for EAIE-DIW group?  Win-win situation, world-wide benefits, cooperating and expanding towards universal accessibility, from seeds gathered at Madrid

(Winning entry for the Creative Writing Competition at the 2009 European Association for International Education, Madrid)

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