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Start of the semester: Studies with disabilities

Interview with Rike Braden, advisor for students with disabilities at the HU

The "Study with Disabilities" team helps students, pupils and prospective students with disabilities. Counseling takes place confidentially and, if desired, anonymously; the team members are subject to data protection and the obligation of secrecy. Rike Braden is a consultant at the HU for students with disabilities.

To whom is the offer of assistance addressed?

Rike Braden: Impairment is a very broad term that includes the term disability. We have chosen impairment because we have found that many students are unable to locate themselves when they have a disability. It is important for us to make it clear that we are not just referring to physical impairments, such as people in wheelchairs or blind people. Physically visible impairments make up the smallest part of our target group. Much more often chronic and psychological illnesses have a study-dragging effect. According to a study of the German Student Union, eleven percent of students have a study-severe impairment. Over 50 percent of these are mental illnesses.

How do you help the students?

Rike Braden: We provide advice primarily on compensating for disadvantages. This is an opportunity that students can take advantage of for both their coursework and exams. For the latter, an application must be made. It should be possible to take an examination in such a way that everyone has the same opportunities. If someone has concentration difficulties due to an impairment, for example, an extension of writing time could be helpful and can be applied for. The possibilities are deliberately kept open and are adapted individually. However, only one third of the students who would be entitled to it submit an application at all. However, compensation for disadvantages is only the second-best instrument, because it is of course best if teaching is so inclusive that compensation for disadvantages is not necessary.

In addition, we advise prospective students on how to apply for hardship compensation and, together with the Counseling Center for Barrier-Free Studying at studierendenWERK Berlin, on integration assistance. These can be technical aids, such as language programs or laptops with certain functions, book money, sign language interpreters or even a study assistant.

What changes has Corona made to your work?

Rike Braden: The switch to online consulting took some time in the beginning, but is now well accepted. There are naturally also advantages, like the independence of place e.g. Thus there are fewer barriers for certain persons, who would like to come to us. On the other hand, registration by e-mail and implementation via zoom is a new barrier, as it excludes people who do not have the technical possibilities. An anonymous consultation is currently even better possible, although this was previously possible in our telephone consultation hours.

What barriers are there in online teaching?

Rike Braden: There are students who are totally comfortable with digital teaching and say that it even breaks down barriers. Especially asynchronous formats are very popular. But for many of them it has also become more difficult, for example because they spend hours working in front of the screen.

For deaf students it is a big problem if the interpreters are not in the same room. There is often a delay during the transmission, which makes it difficult to follow the content. Usually there are also two interpreters, which means that the interpreters:inside have to take turns via the cameras. In the coming semester, subtitles will be used more frequently.

In general, uncertainty about the coming semester is the biggest problem at the moment. For a more inclusive online teaching, more clarity should be created and more formats offered.

The questions were asked by Cosima Kopp.

Further Information

Studies with disabilities


Events for newly enrolled students

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