19 March 2021

Comfortable Learning Environment as a Condition for Accessible Education

Andrey Senchura

Andrey Senchura

Every year, the number of students with special needs enrolled at Saint Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering increases. Andrey Senchura, a specialist of the Division for Curriculum Development and Academic Work, has told what the university is doing to create a comfortable environment for them.

What are the principles of inclusive education? 

– First of all, this implies ensuring the accessibility of high-quality education, creating conditions in which all students would feel like equal participants of the educational process, as well as promoting the employment of graduates with disabilities. The issues related to inclusive education are regulated by Russian federal laws on education and social protection of disabled people as well as legal acts of the Ministry of Education and Science. Our country has long been a member of the Bologna Process, which also provides for certain requirements to organizing the training of persons with disabilities.

– How are these principles implemented at our university? What is being done to make students with disabilities feel comfortable?

– SPbGASU is successfully implementing the “Roadmap for ensuring accessibility of facilities and services in the field of education for the period up to 2030” approved by the rector. Compliance certification of all our сampus buildings has been carried out. Necessary equipment for improving accessibility is systematically purchased: ramps, wheelchairs, mnemonic schemes and much more. All classrooms are equipped with multimedia equipment providing comprehensive assistance to students.

In 2018, SPbGASU signed an agreement with the regional Resource Centre for Training and Methodological Support functioning at the Herzen State Pedagogical University. Cooperation involves a wide range of areas: from career guidance to the development of new forms of inter-university interaction, including the use of distance learning technologies and e-learning. SPbGASU is one of the most active participants of this cooperation. In February, the results of our joint activities implemented in 2020 were summed up, and SPbGASU representatives (head of the division S. Mikhailov and myself) were awarded letters of appreciation for our participation in the national and regional events aimed at the development of inclusive higher education.

– How many students with special health care needs are studying at our university? 

– At the moment there are fifty-seven students with special needs at SPbGASU. The number of visually impaired persons is increasing: now we have four such students. The ratio of students with musculoskeletal disorders and somatic diseases varies.

– What areas of training are these students enrolled in?

– They study practically at all the faculties, there are future civil engineers, architects, road builders, economists among these students.

– What are the peculiarities of the training process while working with such students?

– There are special requirements for teachers in this context, therefore, over the past few years, about 400 SPbGASU teachers have mastered advanced training programmes in psychological, pedagogical and organizational aspects of working with disabled people. Teachers take care of adapting classroom activities if there are students with disabilities in the group, they are responsive to any problems that may arise.

– Do such students experience difficulties with adaptation among other groupmates?

– Anyone can probably face certain problems with adaptation. At the same time, we have examples when students with special health care needs demonstrate the best results in their group, and actively participate in extracurricular activities. Last year, for instance, Vera Zhitnikova and Daria Lomakina from the Faculty of Environmental Engineering and Municipal Services won the 2nd all-Russian networking competition "Professional Tomorrow", which was held in Moscow, in the category "Research".

Our goal is to unleash the potential of such students.

Text: Elena Shulgina
Photo: Sergey Klishis

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