Angela Andersson: “Everybody must be allowed to study on equal terms”
Sep 29, 2014 | Student
At Mälardalen University (MDH), there are almost 550 students with different types of disabilities. Angela Andersson’s job title is Coordinator for Students with Disabilities, and her task is to make it possible for everybody to study at MDH.
– You should not experience your disability as an obstacle to studying at the University. There are different types of support in order for you to study on the same terms as all other students, says Angela Andersson, the University’s Coordinator for Students with Disabilities, who works with these issues together with her colleague Stefan Dahlgren.
Having a disability can mean many different things. It can, for example, be reading and writing problems (dyslexia), loss of hearing or vision, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, or sitting in a wheelchair.
Important to have a diagnosis
– Students contact us when they already have been examined and diagnosed with a disability. In a personal consultation, we determine the best support, which can be pedagogical in nature or to improve physical accessibility, says Angela Andersson.
Some students with disabilities can, for example, be given the opportunity to write an exam in a small group and with extra time. In other cases, the University can recruit a personal escort, often a classmate, for assistance at MDH. Students can also get help to take notes, someone who reads for them, talking books, or access to computer software. The University also has contracts with authorized sign language interpreters for the deaf. None of this implies any costs for the student.
Seeing the unique individual
Everything is very individual, however. That is why counselling talks with each student are very important, so that everything turns out right.
– Every meeting is about seeing the unique individual. I have met an incredible number of students with different abilities and needs, and there is no template that fits everyone. Together, we try out which kind of support works best for each individual, says Angela Andersson.
Making studies possible
Angela Andersson started as central study advisor at MDH in 2002, but has been working as Coordinator for Students with Disabilities for six years now. It’s a job that she is very committed to.
– It feels extremely inspiring to meet all these students and to help them on the journey to making their studies at MDH possible in the best way.
Professional development is important
Yet it is not only the students who receive support from Angela and her colleague Stefan Dahlgren. Teachers and other staff, too, are offered professional development. Angela and Stefan regularly meet groups of employees at the Schools and describe the students’ situation. They offer tips and advice on how to convey knowledge in the best way to people with different types of disabilities.
– We can see that the teachers become more and more professional and secure in their role as teachers when it comes to interacting with students with disabilities. It is also important that newly employed teachers get an introduction to the field, as well as a refresher after having worked for a while, says Angela.
Lending support and overcoming obstacles
The University is working actively for providing the best possible accessibility. The premises are adapted to people with disabilities, and accessibility is in focus. The work takes its clues from tillgänglighetslagen [‘the accessibility act’], which falls under the diskrimineringslagen [‘the discrimination act’].
– It is still the students who are responsible for their study conditions, but we can lend support and help to overcome obstacles as far as possible, says Angela Andersson.