Accessible education at the University of Jyväskylä

Rector’s decision, 24 June 2014 (678/12.00.00.00/2014), accessibility

 Application of this decision on accessible education

In this decision, accessibility refers to implementation of a physical, psychological and social environment where each individual can, regardless of personal qualities, operate on an equal basis. Accessibility concerns all students and staff of the University, and is of special importance to University community members with a disability or learning difficulty, as well as to ageing persons and members of cultural or linguistic minorities. (Slightly modified and translated citation from the publication Esteetön opiskelu yliopistoissa. Elina Laaksonen. Publications of the Ministry of Education 2005:6).

This decision applies to all application processes for the right to pursue a degree, as well as to all degree education at the University of Jyväskylä.

When relevant, the decision also applies to students who pursue separate studies or study modules, JOO students and international exchange students within mobility agreements at the University. In addition, the Open University is to follow the principles of accessible education in its operations when reasonable.

The principles presented in this decision support students, teachers and other University staff in implementing accessibility. The principles describe the following:

  • Accessibility of facilities and practices
  • Individual arrangements
  • Distribution of responsibilities.

 Implementing the principles of accessible education

The purpose of the principles of accessible education is to ensure that all practices and functions of the University comply with the stipulations and the spirit of the Non-Discrimination Act (20.1.2004/21). According to the Act, "nobody may be discriminated against on the basis of age, ethnic or national origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics" (section 6). The Act also obliges authorities to alter particularly those circumstances that prevent the realisation of equality (section 4).

A student has the right to expect that the staff of the University attempt to provide a learning environment that is as socially, psychologically and physically accessible as possible.

In addition, communications and materials related to student admission, teaching, studying and acting as an employee at the University must be accessible.

The Design for All principle must be followed to enable accessibility. The principle stipulates that the strategies and means employed in the planning of new solutions and procurement (e.g. curricula, learning materials, personnel's competence, information systems, equipment and facilities) must promote environments, products and services that are usable, accessible and barrier-free for all users.

When necessary in order to ensure accessibility, students must be offered the following:

  • Individual arrangements
  • Alternative modes of study and course completion.

When pursuing accessibility, it is crucial to ensure the right of students to receive a high-quality education.

 Distribution of responsibilities related to accessible education and individual arrangements

To realise the targets of these guidelines, the whole University community, both staff and students, must commit to the promotion of accessible education.

The heads of units are responsible for ensuring that the principles of these guidelines are followed in their units in order to implement equal opportunities.

Applicants and students are responsible for reporting on possible barriers and applying for individual arrangements when in need of them.

The University units must ensure that the staff and students are offered sufficient information regarding the accessibility of operating environments, communication and learning materials, teaching and studying, as well as on the following related matters:

  • Challenges for different participants (seeing, hearing, moving, ability to function, interaction)
  • Possibilities to be flexible with the completion mode and schedules
  • Optional completion methods
  • Individual arrangements
  • Feedback channels available to students.

University Services provides faculties with recommendations regarding individual arrangements for entrance examinations and studying. When necessary, University Services also helps faculties to implement the arrangements.

University Services is responsible for providing the planning, communications, training, recommendations and expert support needed to implement accessibility, as well as for coordinating and evaluating the activity. The results of the activity are reported annually to the joint meeting of the University management and the Board of the Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä.

Information and communication on accessibility at the University of Jyväskylä is provided in a centralised manner on Accessibility at JYU site (https://www.jyu.fi/accessibility). The site includes instructions and sources of information for realising the principles of accessible education. There is also a form for reporting on barriers to studying or to equal participation.

Arrangements related to student admission

Teaching units must plan and realise entrance examinations so that all applicants are guaranteed to have equal opportunities to participate and prove their skills and abilities. This means taking into account individual needs related to applicants' ability to function.

The applicant is responsible for applying for individual student admission arrangements. The applicant must justify individual arrangements with a medical certificate or another statement of an expert who has sufficient competence to assess the situation.

In addition to impairments and medical conditions affecting functionality, other justified reasons must also be considered when agreeing on individual arrangements.

University Services produces the recommendations for individual arrangements for faculties and delivers them to a person designated by the dean. When needed, University Services helps faculties to implement the arrangements.

Information on individual arrangements in an entrance examination is retained at University Services for twelve months from the date of the entrance examination. During this time, a recommendation for individual study arrangements may be created upon the student's request without a separate application.

Justified individual barrier-free arrangements for entrance examinations may include the following:

  • Examination facilities and equipment
  • Assistive technology
  • Communication
  • Presentation of exercises and questions
  • Answering
  • Availability of expert interpreters, personal assistants and writing assistants
  • Use of time
  • Supervision.

The format of examination questions and examination results must be accessible to all participants.

An applicant must be granted additional time and breaks according to a proven need. The additional time may be, at the most, half of the duration of the examination. The type of examination assignments and the situation of the applicant must be considered when assessing the required additional time.

 Individual arrangements related to studies

Individual arrangements related to accessible education may include, for example, the following:

  • Communications related to teaching (e.g. information on facilities and schedules and their changes)
  • Presentations, learning materials and course literature
  • Making of notes, various exercises and group work related to studies, study guidance and counselling.

Accessibility in examinations is primarily implemented using the same practices as in entrance examinations.

The student is responsible for agreeing on individual arrangements related to studies. Discussions related to the arrangements are confidential.

The student must apply for the recommendation of individual exam and teaching arrangements from University Services.

In addition to impairments and medical conditions affecting functionality, other justified reasons must also be considered when agreeing on individual arrangements.

Together with the representatives of teaching units, University Services creates a recommendation of individual arrangements for the student. The recommendation is signed by the Director of Student and Academic Services.

Based on the recommendation of University Services, a person named by the head of the department or independent institute is responsible for the implementation of arrangements. When needed, University Services supports units in implementing the arrangements.

To the extent permitted by the student, a person named by the head of department or independent institute informs personnel about the arrangements in a centralised manner. This way the student does not need to go through the same questions separately in different units or with every teacher.

To support interaction with students, teaching staff has the obligation to get familiar with the key material related to accessibility (https://www.jyu.fi/accessibility).

 Accessible learning environments

The University and its units are responsible for ensuring that all students are able to use the University's physical environment as well as its information and communication environments for studying, learning and participating.

If the accessibility of an environment or function of central importance proves to be impossible because of technical or financial reasons, an accessible alternative is offered to secure the quality of learning.

The University is responsible for equipping leased facilities with the most common aids for general use (induction loops, fittings, etc.) and also for procuring student-specific aids necessary for learning if reasonable and if no other source of funding is available for the aids.

1 Social environment

With their own example, and by developing the staff, the heads of units implement equal opportunities and create an atmosphere that is open to the diversity of the University community.

University Services promotes the consideration of accessibility and the removal of barriers in the strategic planning of the University.

To promote equality and accessibility, University Services cooperates with various units of the University and external parties, arranges training and events and informs the University community about actions aiming at accessibility. University Services creates an annual action plan and reports the results of the actions to the University management and the Student Union.

2 Physical environment

University Services is responsible for ensuring that all students are able to use the University's physical environments as well as its information and communication environments for studying, learning and participating.

University Services ensures its staff have the skills to implement accessibility in the current facilities as well as in newly constructed ones.

Each facility user is responsible for organising teaching and events in environments that are as accessible as possible, as well as for reporting development needs to Facility Services.

3 Information and communication environments

In the use of information and communications technology, the University and its units must take into account the needs of different users, as well as any generally approved recommendations and standards for accessibility and usability in the following cases:

  • Procurement, maintenance, support and user training of information systems, software and terminal devices
  • The structure, content and form of websites and documents for teaching, studying, communications and administration
  • Alternatives and adjustments of teaching and studying
  • Development of the staff's competence
  • Cooperation of various operators and stakeholders of the University (to ensure sufficient expertise).

It is especially important that all key teaching and learning materials that are used repeatedly are made accessible.

These principles of accessible education at the University will come into effect on 1 January 2015.

Matti Manninen
Rector

 

Annex: Distribution of responsibilities when implementing accessible education

University

The University and its units are responsible for ensuring that all students have an opportunity to use the University's physical environment as well as its information and communication environments for studying, learning and participating.

The University and its units ensure that the staff and students have sufficient information to implement accessibility.

Is responsible for equipping leased facilities with the most common aids for general use (induction loops, fittings, etc.).

Procures student-specific aids necessary for learning if reasonable and if no other source of funding is available for the aids.

In the use of information and communications technology, takes into account the needs of different users and generally approved recommendations and standards for accessibility and usability.

Faculties and departments

Plan and realise entrance examinations so that all are guaranteed equal opportunities to participate and prove their skills and abilities.

Implement teaching-related communications and learning materials in an accessible manner, using individual arrangements if necessary.

In cooperation with University Services, create the recommendations for individual arrangements.

University Services

Is responsible for the planning, communication, training, guideline creation and expert support needed to implement accessibility, as well as for the coordination and evaluation of the activity.

Provides faculties with the recommendations for individual arrangements in entrance examinations and studying, and helps faculties in the realisation of the arrangements.

Promotes the consideration of accessibility and the removal of barriers in the strategic planning of the University.

To promote equality and accessibility, cooperates with various units of the University and external parties, arranges training and events and informs the University community about actions aiming at accessibility.

Creates an annual action plan and reports the results of the actions to the University management and the Student Union.

For its part, is responsible for ensuring that all students are able to use the University's physical environment and information and communication environments for studying, learning and participating.

Ensures that its staff have the skills to implement accessibility in the current facilities as well as in newly constructed ones.

Deans

With their own example, and by developing the staff, they implement equal opportunities and create an atmosphere that is open to the diversity of the University community.

Are responsible for ensuring that the principles of these guidelines are followed in their units in order to implement equal opportunities.

Appoint the person to whom the recommendations for individual arrangements are delivered.

Heads of departments and directors of independent institutes

With their own example, and by developing the staff, they implement equal opportunities and create an atmosphere that is open to the diversity of the University community.

Appoint the person who communicates individual arrangements in a centralised manner.

Applicant

Informs about possible barriers and applies for individual student admission arrangements. The applicant must justify individual arrangements with a medical certificate or another statement of an expert.

Student

Informs about possible barriers and applies for a recommendation for individual exam and teaching arrangements from University Services.