Apart from the work on amendments to the legislation aimed at creating positive legal conditions for the life and education without discrimination for the persons with disabilities, the Association of Students with Disabilities (ASD) works directly with the beneficiaries through the programmes of non-formal education and support services.
Adaptation of entrance exams
High school students with disabilities who plan to continue their education and enroll in programmes of higher education can contact the Association of Student with Disabilities with the aim of finding out which opportunities are available at their chosen faculty/high college. In case it is needed to adapt the method of taking entrance exams, the Association addresses the specific institution of higher education with this request. Such types of barriers are mostly successfully overcome. The most common kind of support regarding the entrance exam is the adaptation of tests for future students who are partially sighted. It is required that the test is printed in a blown out version, using a font which is the most suitable for the person to read. For those who are visually impaired, the faculty provides an assistant who provides support during the entrance exam.
Advocating for students with disabilities
Advocacy implies the communication with the management of faculties, universities and high colleges, authorised city departments and ministries as well as other institutions, with the aim of supporting students in formulating issues and requests into official letters, delivering the letters to official institutions etc. The students have the most need regarding the exemption from tuition fees and the regulation of their student status. Given that since the academic year 2008/09 the Ministry of Education and Science has been issuing the directions for the enrollment of students from minority groups outside entry quota, it is expected that this becomes a regular practice. However, this is not the case, and the requests to each faculty or high college management are still dealt with on an individual basis, on behalf of each student. As a response to each appeal, the Ministry of Education makes a recommendation to an institution of higher education to enroll the specific student outside the entry quota or provides the exemption from payment of tuition fees ‘in accordance with their capabilities’ The outcome is mostly positive, but still not in one hundred percent of the cases.
Availability of literature
The students who are partially sighted face the barriers during their studies, both at independent movement and learning. The literature in accessible formats is rarely available at the University of Belgrade. The exception is the Faculty of Law which bridged this barrier with ‘an internal policy’, a rule book which stipulates that student books are made available in e-book formats for the students of this faculty. The great issue in providing literature in the form of e-books is the concern of authors that their work might be misused. Thus the students of the Faculty of Law are obliged to sign a form of agreement binding them to respect copyright law.
The students who require e-books in their studies are trying to overcome this barrier in various ways. One of the ways is scanning and converting of the text into a computer-readable format by their fellow students. Several students with a visual impairment use this type of support available in the Association. Of course, this method is more time-consuming and more complex than providing students with the opportunity to use materials which are already prepared for publication.
‘Scholarships for the Equalisation of Opportunities’
In 2002 the Association of Students with Disabilities launched the initiative for ‘Scholarships for the Equalisation of Opportunities’ for freshers and students with disabilities, in order to provide them with opportunities for the advancement of their studies through facilitated funding.
Taking into account the inequality at enrollment and throughout studies, this scholarship greatly facilitates overcoming the barriers that freshers and students with disabilities face. The scholarship is awarded to all the students with disabilities who are government-funded and enrolled in a given year of studies for the first time. The Association mediates between students and the bank which, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, provides the funding. In case there is a need, the ASD represents the candidates who deem to be an injured party in the process of deciding on the scholarship approval. The ASD files a complaint to an authorised institution on behalf of those who deem there is a legal ground for it.
Assistance in education
The ASD has launched a pilot project ‘Assistance Services in Higher Education’ and within it the students at the faculties in Kragujevac, Niš and Belgrade provide assistance in education for their colleagues with disabilities. Peer support includes the assistance in going to and from the faculty, providing and adapting literature, taking notes, exam registration and similar procedures.
At the moment, the preparation of some new services which will be available for the students with disabilities is also under way.