Masaryk University

Project´s fourth site visit to the Masaryk University (Brno, Czech Republic) from 23rd till 28th of October 2011 marked the start of Working group III and the third project major activity that is development of educational workshops for teaching, professional and administrative faculties’ staff about work with students with disabilities and the ways of accessibility of academic environment to students with disabilities.
The full program of the site visit is available by clicking on this link. Underneath is a brief summary of site visit activities.

Study visit began with introduction of all the participants from the University of Zagreb and the staff of Masaryk University included in the realization of the study visit. In the introductory part also participated the MU vice rector for research.

After the introductory part the head of Support Centre for Students with Special Needs briefly presented the work of the Masaryk University and the Centre.
Masaryk University was founded in 1919 and consists of 9 faculties. About 45.000 students are studying at the University and more than 300 are students with disabilities. Number of students with disabilities at the University is about three times higher than the number of students with disabilities at the other Czech universities. Within the Rector´s Office from 2000 operates the Support Centre for Students with Special Needs – Teiresias Centre – Centre consists of Central Office and following sections: Study Section, Lifelong Learning Section, Special IT Section, Library and Publishing Section, Sign Language Section and Mobility Impaired Section.

Centre has more than 30 employers who, with the lot of expert associates, work on the following main services: Teaching and Counseling Services (Services for daily Studies and Services for Lifelong learning), ICT Services, Information Accessibility Services (Publishing House, Library, Translation and Interpreting) and Assistance.

Some of the specificities of Masaryk University approach are: Braille documents are official MU documents whenever signature of a blind person is required, academic library for blind and partially sighted is one of the public university libraries, Czech Sign Language is considered as one of the official teaching languages, communication on sign language is being guaranteed by the Sign Language Act (1998).
Presentation is available by clicking on this link.

Except the introductory part, the first day of the study visit was dedicated to the communication with the students with hearing impairments issue. Within the presentation we found out more about the development of the legislation in this field and about hearing-deaf communication and services provided to the students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Communication and services consider: written communication in real time (applicable media are paper, board, flipchart, mobile phone screen, computer screen with any text editor, any chat), lip reading and communication mediated by a third person (by an interpreter and by visualization). There are two basic types of visualization: Signed Czech and speech-to-text reporting /typing the discourse in real time). Whenever a deaf person and a hearing person communicate together at Masaryk University, both parties of the communication are entitled to require that the spoken language will be interpreted or visualized. Support Centre for Students with Special Needs (Teiresias Centre) provides for these services at all university departments and events. Former solutions of speech-to-text reporting for groups had complicated setup and could serve only up to three students but the new solutions improved this method and it is developed the new own system – polygraph that is more simple and effective for using.
The presentations are available by clicking on following links.
Part A - Communication course, Polygraf
Part B - Dictionary, Tests

Second day of the study visit was dedicated to the students with learning difficulties and psychological disabilities issue and we found out more about services provided to this group of students. There were also presented two case studies – one was about the way of learning English language without oral expression of a student with mutism and second one was about the student with autism.

On third day of the study visit we heard more about students with visual impairments and services provided for them. We got information about electronic technical tools and equipment available in the Centre to students with visual impairments, about orientation and mobility of the visually impaired students of Masaryk University, library services for students with visual impairments, making documents and study material accessible and universal design from perspective of blind and partially sighted students. We also had a chance to see directly how the equipment for students with visual impairments is used in the Centre as well as the participation of the students with visual impairments in the university sport activities.
Presentations are available by clicking on this link.

Issue of the fourth day was about the students with physical disabilities and difficulties in movement. We had the chance to see the movement of one of the MU staff members who uses wheelchair through the one of the university unit that is partially accessible for students with disabilities. Thereby we could see the obstacles that students with physical disabilities are facing with and the ways of trying to solve these obstacles.

Interesting and useful experience for us was also the visit to the University Centre in Telč, in town that is about 100 km far from Brno, which is the example of historical building fully accessible to students with disabilities.

Working group III, charged for developing of educational workshops for teaching, professional and administrative staff, hold the first meeting within this study visit and define the tasks of the Group and the goals of the educational workshops.

Members of the Croatian delegation wish to thank each staff member of the Support Centre for Students with Special Needs who presented the activities of the Centre and the work they do: Mr. Tomáš Bukovsky, Mr. Jiři Tužil, Ms. Gabriela Vojáčková, Mr. Lukáš Másilko, Ms. Michaela Hanousková, Mr. Ondřej Nečas, Mr. Petr Červenka, Mr. Lukáš Pazderka, Ms. Lucie Štefková, Ms. Zuzana Fonioková, Ms.Ilja Rajdová, Mr. Alexandr Zvonek, Ms. Karel Sobol, Ms. Iveta Macháčová.

Finally, our outmost gratitude for an effort made for organization of the study visit and for making this study visit an excellent learning experience for us to the host and organizers, Mr Petr Peňáz, the head of the Centre and one of the coordinators of the EduQuality project, and to Mr. Ondřej Válka and Ms. Tereza Prejdová.

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