ESOK-hanke 2006-2011


Physically disabled students and higher education

People can be born with a physical disability or their disability can be the result of an accident or illness. Physically disabled students' independent operating and moving are either temporarily or permanently limited.

The scope at which disabled students can operate varies with each individual. The student's disability can also have an effect on the use of their hands, coordination, balance and endurance.

The student might use tools and aids to help them move and study, a personal assistant or an assistance dog. The student usually knows their own situation and needs best. An open discussion between the student and the teacher will help them to discover the most beneficial teaching and studying methods.

Environment and operating

Everyone can promote accessibility in their higher education institution. You can do this by learning about how well the spaces and environment there work, giving feedback on them, and by choosing to use as accessible spaces and methods as possible. Entrances, stairs and thresholds are some important factors to take into account in getting around. The main thing is that information and signs are up to date, so that it is possible to select accessible spaces and routes. Facility services is an essential partner in this matter.

In an accessible environment, a disabled student is able to take part in activities equally with the others.

  • It is easier to plan teaching and studying if you get to know about available spaces and schedules in time.
  • If necessary, spaces and methods are modified to ensure accessibility for all the students, for example the lecture room can be switched to one that is accessible.
  • Flexible schedules and alternative ways to complete assignments help studying and the student's well-being.

Hard to predict circumstances, for example the availability of personal help, weather conditions as well as transportation and public transportation arrangements, might also have an effect on how well a student can participate.

Classes and lectures

Disabled students do not form a homogenous group based on their moving and operating ability. An individual student's ability to operate can vary by both the environment and disability-related issues. This is why it is important to offer alternative ways to study and take care of things.

It helps students to participate in class if

  • classes, hallways, elevators and so on have enough room for students who use various study and movement aids
  • the classroom has furniture which fits diverse users and can be adjusted, for example separate desks and chairs
  • a student is allowed to have some assistive technology at their disposal, for example a laptop
  • lectures and material are available beforehand in an accessible format and location, for example online
  • the student can have a personal assistant who helps them with, for example, note-taking
  • the student can create audio or visual records necessary for their personal study use
  • the students are immediately informed with a text message about possible changes in class room arrangements or cancellation of lectures
  • classes can also be attended remotely via the Internet.

Note that several disabled people might be attending the same lecture or class at the same time. Other study-related spaces, for example workstations, libraries, lobbies, counters and bathrooms, should also be suitable for people with various kinds of disabilities, e.g. for those who use wheelchairs. For exams, make sure that the students have extra time if needed, as well as that the tools, aids and help they need are available.

Practical training and practicalities

Matters related to practical training are discussed with the student and the training supervisor. A disabled student should have the option to get to know the physical environment of their place of practical training and the work community beforehand. Accessibility principles concerning the surroundings are usually same in both practical training and studying. Encourage the student to talk about their strengths as well as about any possible arrangements they need in their training and work, for example the aids they use. Improve your own skills and be there to help change attitudes and practices in working life.

It is easier to find solutions to problems if students are informed about the study-related tasks well beforehand and they can come and discuss possible alternative ways for completing them. It also helps students if they have the option to get to know laboratories, studios, natural environments as well as required equipment beforehand, if needed.

Planning and informing

You can do your part to make sure your higher education institution informs everyone about

  • the contact person for accessibility matters, the disability coordinator
  • accessibility and obstacles of facilities
  • location of facilities and traffic connections
  • the drop-out points for assisted transportation at various entrances
  • parking places for the disabled
  • public transportation stops.

The higher education institutions must make sure that their emergency rescue plans includes disabled students.

More information:

Many practices that promote accessibility help all the students - take a look at other guides on

Seminars in English

Seminar On Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities in Higher Education

2 December 2009 at 11.00 - 16.3, PharmaCity, Lecture Hall 1, Itäinen Pitkäkatu 4, Turku

The seminar programme >>

Accessibility is for everyone

The third national accessibility seminar organized by ESOK project will be held in Helsinki on 6.-7. May 2009. The number of participants at the moment 112.

Accessibility is for everyone > >