Strategies and policy measures at National level to ensure Inclusive Mobility of students with disabilities
The Flemish Government has adopted the Action Plan "Brains on the Move" in 2013. The Action Plan is composed of a broad range of initiatives and scholarships. The focus lies on the mobility of students. The action plan does not only contain strategies to promote mobility among the Flemish students, but it also creates possibilities to attract foreign students to Flanders.
Inclusion is given a central place in the Action Plan. A benchmark was set concerning the mobility of underrepresented groups in higher education. The aim is that 33% of graduates should have a mobility experience and that 33% of the mobile students should belong to underrepresented groups by 2020. At this moment these groups are defined as students with disabilities, students from an economically disadvantaged background and working students.
Concrete actions have been taken to promote mobility among these groups:
- with regard to mobility grants that it awards, the Flemish Government applies the rule of allocating a minimum of 25% of all grants to students from underrepresented groups.
- conferences and communication campaigns are used to stimulate students with disabilities to go abroad. For example, the 2015 Handbook of the Flemish Community of Belgium on study and internships abroad includes one chapter dedicated to students with disabilities. SIHO developed mobility portraits of students with disabilities who went on an international exchange program. Students testify about their experiences.
- grants and financial incentives are provided for students with disabilities in order to achieve this target (see further).
Targets for the participation of students with disabilities in credit mobility programmes such as Erasmus+
Since 2013 there has been an Action plan for student mobility. The aim is that 33% of graduates should have a mobility experience and that 33% of the mobile students should belong to underrepresented groups (among them disabled students). This applies to outgoing mobility.
Grants and support services available for local students with disabilities going abroad
The National Agency EPOS vzw provides:
- a special needs grant to students with disabilities to reimburse the extra costs associated with disability expenses in Erasmus+ programmes. For this application, students are requested to submit a quotation of expenses, cost estimation (for costs associated with their disability) and a medical certificate, etc.
- financial support for a pre visit to the student mobility destination and, if needed, for a trusted person/coach to accompany the student on this preparatory visit.
The Flemish Ministry of Education and Training provides:
- a financial incentive for mobile students with disabilities. An average monthly amount of EUR 200 is provided on top of the regular mobility grant.
- financial support for interpreter support and converting course materials abroad
- special learning materials can be used abroad
- the decree on student services currently makes it possible for higher education institutions to award an additional grant to students from under-represented groups.
Grants and support services available for international students with disabilities
The Flemish Ministry of Education and Training awards scholarships for master's programmes in Flanders and Brussels to outstanding students from around the world. A Master Mind Scholarship includes a grant of €8 000 + a tuition fee waiver per academic year (60 ECTS). Master Mind Scholarship holders only pay an administrative enrolment fee. The grant is paid in instalments and covers accommodation costs, insurances and a significant amount of their living expenses. If you are interested, you first need to apply to one of the Flemish host institutions that participates in the Master Mind Scholarship Programme.
International degree students can apply for the above mentioned disability financial measures of the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training. Exchange students (credit mobility) are not eligible for this financial support and should discuss with their home institution whether there are other means of financial support in the home country, such as the additional Erasmus grant for students with disabilities.
International degree students and exchange students (credit mobility) cannot apply for grants of the Flemish Agency for People with a Disability (VAPH). They should discuss with their home institution whether there are other means of financial support in the home country, such as the additional Erasmus grant for students with disabilities.
Students with fewer opportunities
Definition of fewer opportunities
According to the Codex for Higher Education “Students with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
This definition incorporates a wide range of conditions including amongst other physical and sensory disabilities, a chronic illness, a learning disorder (dyslexia or dyscalculia), autism spectrum disorder, attention disorder such as ADHD, tic disorder, dysphasia, a psychiatric disability.
National procedures and conditions to be recognised as a student with fewer opportunities and to apply for reasonable adjustments
The duty of higher education institutions to provide reasonable adjustments to students with disabilities is a legal requirement established amongst others by the Codex for/in Higher Education. Higher education institutions are bound to set out clear procedures on how to apply for reasonable adjustments as well as an internal procedure for students with disabilities to appeal against a refusal of reasonable adjustments.
Every higher education institution has a specific contact person for students with disabilities. Within their institution, they are responsible for coordinating the guidance and assistance of (both local and international) students with disabilities.
All students who have a disability and wish to apply for reasonable adjustments have to register their disability and have to provide evidence of disability through medical documents. Criteria on what type of report students need to provide and how recent it needs to be varies by disability.
After recognition, the disability officer carries out a needs assessment.During an assessment interview, obstacles that arise within the educational context as a direct result of the disability are inventoried and reasonable adjustments are discussed.
Reasonable adjustments can include:
- education activities such as introduction to the faculty, getting a digital copy of your handbooks and courses (e.g. to use with text-to-speech software etc.)
- examinations (e.g. extended time for testing, reading software, a separate room, etc).
The agreement on reasonable adjustments always takes into account the practical feasibility, training requirements and the goals of the different courses. Adjustments can be evaluated and adapted over time.
Specific public support services and/or public grants for students with fewer opportunities?
The Flemish Ministry of Education and Training offers specific financial support in the following areas:
- higher education institutions receive funding to provide guidance and assistance to students with disabilities. Depending on the type of disability, students with disabilities higher education institutions will offer specific support in the domain of education, transport, student housing and wellbeing.
- students with a visual, physical or hearing impairment can apply for financial support for specific learning materials (e.g. board camera) and a budget of up to 100€ for copying notes.
- students with a hearing impairment, can apply for interpreter support. This is applicable for support via a sign language interpreter and/or a text-to-speech interpreter.
- students with a visual impairment can apply for conversions of course materials to larger copies, (digital) braille, (digital) large print or digitally accessible files.
- provides study grants to ensure that everyone has access to higher education. The decision to award a study grant depends on, amongst other things, nationality (a Belgian nationality is required. If you are not a Belgian national, you or your parents must have lived in Belgium for some time and must be working, or have already worked in Belgium), family situation, income and study programme (you must follow a recognised study programme at an institution that is recognised, financed or funded by the Flemish Community. Some study programmes are not eligible for a study grant. The study programme must lead to a diploma and you must still have sufficient study grant credit. Specific conditions apply to studying abroad.
The Support Centre for Inclusive Higher Education (SIHO) supports:
- higher education institutions to implement the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and to develop an inclusive policy within the higher education institutions.
- students with disabilities with the supply of digital learning materials (courses, syllabi, handbooks)
The Flemish Agency for People with a Disability (VAPH) offers financial support in the following areas:
- pedagogical help: students with a visual and hearing impairment who are registered in the Belgian population or foreigners’ register and are staying in Flanders or the Brussels-Capital Region and who have lived in Belgium country for at least five years without interruption or are an EU citizen can apply for pedagogical help. Pedagogical assistants give support for coaching, structuring course materials, making diagrams or summaries, research, layout work. They cannot give practical guidance or assistance (e.g. converting text into braille, taking notes during classes).
- transport and housing: students with long-term reduced mobility can apply for financial support for transport and student housing.