Among the objectives of regional development for the West Region in Romania (Plan of National Development for West Region 2014-2020), the objective of inclusion of persons with disabilities was explicitly mentioned (p. 42). In the West Region this strategy registered a number of 66.144 persons with disabilities living with their families, while from the total of persons with disabilities (67.701) only 4,73% were working (p.43). Thus, higher education can contribute to the reduction of social exclusion for this category, by offering them a specialization as an advantage for further integration at the workplace.
The center was identified as a positive practice in a national research project on the topic of increasing equity in higher education. The research team from UEFISCDI (the national coordination of research unit) interviewed the director of the center, dr. Mihai Predescu, on the larger topic of the equity in higher education and services provided to students.
The center offered information and assistance to candidates and students with various disabilities in the West University of Timisoara. The target groups were the candidates with disabilities (a disadvantaged group in the region) and the students with disabilities (which also needed further assistance, after admission).
The mission of this center was to create a frame of inclusion for students with special educational requirements in the West University in Timisoara (UVT): developing accessibility of the university for students with disabilities; creating an interface between students with disabilities and teachers, for the adaptation of study materials and evaluation instruments; psychological and educational counseling; increasing accessibility of spaces and technologies; adaptation of support materials in function of the type of disability; diagnosis and guiding for medical treatment.
The additional objectives of this center refer to the increase of knowledge about the special needs of persons with disabilities, and the instruction of necessary competences: research with the Psychological Clinic of the university; short formation programs on teaching methods and adaptation of study materials for pupils with CES (target publics: parents, teachers from schools, personal instructors), conferences and seminars on this topic.
Also, among the additional objectives of the center was the international cooperation for increasing awareness on the category of people with disabilities, and the support for increasing mobility of these persons.
What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?
The outcomes of this center were not presented in the research interview which is a source of this case study. However, the center was active in the last five years and is active in present.
What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?
The dissemination of information about the center would increase the results by attracting more students with disabilities to the university. Also, the key of an effective integration strategy refers to the flexibility of curriculum and methods of teaching, and to the adaptation of teaching materials and support (especially the digital support is important). A partnership with the profile institution (Direction for adults with Disabilities) would contribute to the increase of effectiveness.
What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?
The number of potential candidates is rather small (they stop before graduating high school). The need of support for their families is quite intense as they receive only a small amount of money – and, because of these problems, families might be unable to support candidates to enroll in a university.
Feasibility & Sustainability
What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?
The center is not difficult to maintain and develop. It requires a limited number of part-time employees, some office technique and resources (materials, information, contacts).
Replicability & Upscaling
What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?
The center could be implemented in this form in any university, regardless of specialization.
What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?
Most of the participants indicated that, among all the aspects they have learned, the most important lesson referred to their responsibility towards colleagues and clients, to be able to deliver a task with the requested features before a deadline.
The coordinators learned to be more effective from year to year in the designing of this context, but also in communication and feed-back.
Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)
In Romania, the education system is not adapted for pupils with disabilities, who are allowed to be in schools but receive no support for access of personalized study (the curriculum is rigid). Very few of them reach to graduate high school and candidate to a university (where the lack of support continues). The laws and norms specify the need to integrate students with disabilities, but there are no practical regulations and visible consequences.