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Report of a visit at AAU

At the end of October/beginning of November 2011 the Disability Officer of the University of Vienna spent one and a half weeks in Addis Ababa. The reason for her stay was the kick-off of the scientific project "respond her" (Responding to Poverty and Disability through Higher Education and Research), which is coordinated by the Departement of Education of the University of Vienna.

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Impressions from the AAU Campus as a Disability Officer

Moving around Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, you'll quickly recognize how many persons with visible impairments there are. At the main campus this impression persists: Blind students walk around the complex or are guided by their fellow students. Students with mobility impairments in wheelchairs, with crutches or on self-built vehicles move between university buildings. Deaf students converse vividly at the bus stop in front of the campus. Here, impairment is much more visible than at the University of Vienna. 

The Head of the on-site Disability Center, Tewodros Getachew, confirms: The number of persons with sensory or mobility impairments is higher, due to medical care. At Addis Ababa University (AAU) the number of disabled students is particularly high, because the facilities and support service are outstanding in Ethiopia.
Less visible for visitors of the campus, but also less addressed by institutions of higher education are students with mental health problems, specific learning disorders (like autistic or dyslectic students or students with attention deficit issues) or chronically ill students.

As mentioned, AAU has a leading role when it comes to services for students with disabilities. That there is "space allowed" for the topic manifests itself in generously laid out facilities like the Disability Center or in the University Library as well. There, the extension of service-structures is dedicatedly worked on with the help of NGOs and means of the university.

Very few students have internet-access or PCs that are customised for their individual needs. It is all the more important that the university provides such opportunities.

Considering all cultural differences between Austria and Ethiopia it shows that there are common challenges as well: Many barriers arise on grounds of insufficient awareness or lacking knowledge both on the part of staff members and fellow students. The accessibility of buildings, concerning new constructions, adaptations or the maintenance of infrastructure, keeps both universities busy. Not least, disability officers here and there are challenged to find creative solutions for measures and support services to provide the best possible framework for "their" students.  

Following you find some impression of the main campus auf AAU, which is in the center of the city:

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