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The Warsaw Voice » Society » October 29, 2002
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Equal Opportunities
October 29, 2002 By I.A.C.    
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Earning a higher education in Poland was once difficult for disabled individuals, both due to architectural obstacles and psychological and social barriers.

For three years now, Warsaw University has been carrying out the program University for All, which was designed to open the school up to disabled students.

The creators of the program have assumed that the model of an integrated society should be based on the principle of equal opportunities. Thus, Warsaw University avoids projects giving the disabled a privileged status, but enables them to fully use the school on a regular basis. Priority is given to projects which ensure equal opportunities to the disabled and enable them to fully join the academic community.

The program creates optimum conditions for the disabled to study and work at the university. It covers various types of disabilities, and all kinds of barriers that disabled students may encounter, including the attitude of the academic community.

The program dates back to May 1999, when the Rector's Group adopted an official document specifying the university's policies on the disabled. On the basis of this document, the Mathematics, IT and Engineering building was adjusted to the needs of those with locomotive disabilities. Another 13 university buildings have been adjusted in this way, and 15 have partly been adjusted.

With a view to eliminating transport barriers, a university transportation system began operating at the beginning of the 2000/01 academic year. Two buses capable of carrying five wheelchairs at a time are now used by over 20 students. A transportation project for weekend and post-graduate students has also been established. Tutors are available for those students whose department buildings have not yet been adjusted to their needs.

A program designed to ensure disabled students equal access to information was launched in the '90s. Library regulations have been adjusted in order to ensure full assistance, and nine computer posts have been established to be used by the blind and four for those with motor system disabilities. Work posts for teachers and administrative employees with sight problems have been equipped with special electronic and computer devices. The Braille From the Computer program permits the printing of texts in Braille.
The university also rents equipment to disabled students with sight and motor control problems, and there are language courses using non-visual learning methods. Digital recordings of books are also available at the university library.

There are still some inhibitions and prejudices in Poland regarding the disabled. This is why the university holds several training sessions and conferences designed to eliminate the negative behavior patterns among students, lecturers and other university employees.
The growing numbers of disabled students among those admitted is a tangible effect of the program. In 1998, only 12 disabled students out of 29 candidates were admitted. In the academic year of 2000/01, 53 out of 111 disabled candidates were admitted.

The cost of the program totaled zl.23 million, and the university used several financing sources. One of them is the National Fund for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled. Some of the funding came from Warsaw's Centrum borough, from the Foundation for Warsaw University Students and Graduates and from the Ministry of National Education and Sports.
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