Dialogues on Disability: Mexico 2017
Posted on 31/01/2017
From the 16 to 21 January a group of 6 King’s students joined participants from India, Mexico, Germany and Brazil for a global interaction on disability in higher education. The Dialogues on Disability Programme, this year hosted at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, explored the challenges and opportunities surrounding accessibility and inclusion of disabled people in universities. The initiative is supported at King’s through a collaboration between King’s Worldwide and the Disability Advisory Service.
Established in 2013 in partnership with Delhi University as a tool for creating continuous dialogue for improvement, the programme has now grown to include 5 global institutions including King’s, University of Delhi (India), Humbolt University (Germany), UNAM (Mexico) and UFABC (Brazil).
During the week participants from the five participating institutions met with disability advocacy groups such as the Mandala Foundation, which promotes consideration of the issues disabled issues around inclusion and diversity and Inclusion Disability a charitable organisation working to promote inclusion for the visually impaired in Mexico. An interaction with INDEPEDI, a Governmental body promoting access to transport and physical environments provided a contextual insight into the challenges facing disabled people in getting around Mexico City.
‘I learnt a lot from the programme with such a diverse group of young individuals all coming together in Mexico to try and increase inclusion for disabled students in higher education. In particular that connectivity and cultural sensitivity are key to implementing change.’ Jamie Nicholas, 1st year Geography student.
During the week students explored provision for disabled students at UNAM. This included an innovative form of motion capture technology developed by UNAM faculty, which enabled web-navigation for students with motor disabilities. Controlled by facial expression and slight movements of the head, eyes and mouth, it allowed these students to browse the information available independently.
Rhys Thorne a participant from King’s College London commented: ‘A personal highlight during the week was the time I got to spend speaking to Aldo, a law student at UNAM who, like me, also has Cerebral Palsy. We spoke about growing up with Cerebral Palsy and how we both had to fight for the right to study at our respective primary schools. The fact that we were able to bond over our similar experiences is a demonstration of the success of the Dialogues on disability programme. Although we may come from different backgrounds, with different cultures and live halfway across the world from one another, our disabilities do not divide us, they unite us.’
The week presented an opportunity for staff to share best practise. Lorraine Ishmael Byers, Head of Student Disability said ‘In addition to the wider aims of the engagement, the participation in these events provides a unique opportunity to reflect on practices to support the engagement of disabled students, not only from the shared experiences the students talk about, but from listening to and understanding the practices and challenges of colleagues working in similar environments. Whilst sharing what works, there are opportunities for refining working practices, accepting that not every initiative is easily transferrable. A positive outcome from the event in 2016 is that a participating student at Humboldt succeeded in securing funding for a three year project to evaluate and recommend enhancements to the support structures for disabled students. King’s will continue to work with Humbolt and UNAM whilst they develop their recently in sharing practice, and in doing so, benefit from new ways at looking at issues and reassess what we do here.’
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