Study Centre for the Visually Impaired (SZS)

Access_VIP Access to University for Visually Impaired Persons

Financing:

EU Programme Tempus

Project duration:

1.09.2007 - 31.08.2008

Projct applicant:

Studienzentrum für Sehgeschädigte

Project partners:

Moldova State University
Union of Blind of Moldova
Comenius Universität Bratislava

The Republic of Moldova is among the poorest European countries. It's a small widely agricultural country without industrial background. In order to build up political and economic stability and international competitiveness the RM aims to establish a democratic educational system to develop the intellectual capacities of its citizens at all levels and classes, including people with disabilities.

The TEMPUS - SCM supports this process by focusing on visually impaired people - their abilities and potentials - establishing correspondent networks and structures, legal, educational and technological conditions. Best practice from the Universität Karlsruhe (TH) and the Comenius University Bratislava shall be implemented together with the Blind Union of Moldova, the Moldova State University and the full support of the Moldavian Ministry of Education. Striving for a Support Centre "Without Borders" at the "Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics" in intense co-operation with the "Faculty of Social Work, Sociology and Philosophy" this can lead to a transfer to other educational institutions and to an openness in companies. In consequence the understanding of disability in general can change to personal equity and social integration. The TEMPUS project counts on the participation of politicians, companies, academics, students, regional and national media.

For more information please see the project-website.

The "Support Center Without Barriers", Moldova State University

Opening speech 10 September 2008, Chisinau / Republic of Moldova
Joachim Klaus, SZS Universität Karlsruhe (TH) Germany

Honorable audience,

I am - together with my colleague Angelika Scherwitz-Gallegos - very pleased and feel deeply glad to be here at this opening event of the “Support Centre Without Barriers” for people with visual impairment. After one year we could realize to start with a concrete establishment, a technical equipment for supporting blind and partially sighted students here in Moldova and the correspondent training of staff members by the German company delivering technologies.

The TEMPUS Programme of the European Commission offered the financial background of less than 150.000 Euro, a team of partners from

• Moldova State University (Faculty of Informatics and Faculty or Social Sciences)
• Moldova Blind Union
• Comenius University Bratislava/Slovak Republic
• Karlsruhe University/Germany

did this work together.

This international group, meeting three times – in Chisinau, Bratislava, Karlsruhe – and now for the final workshop here again in Chisinau- came up in 12 months to build up a common network of understanding, of structural and organisational ideas, pedagogical and technological support of a holistic – IT based – system to enable blind and partially sighted young people to follow their way of entering into a study programme of their choice and their personal fulfilment and consequently into a professional working place contributing to the personal and social welfare – what means being an active and productive citizen of the Republic of Moldova.
Sure, there are until now three rooms, a handful of staff members and some dozen of students!
Why nevertheless these brave and bold words? I am convinced that this “Support Centre Without Barriers” has a model character, is a signal, will have a symbolic mission with a specific human, social and democratic charisma. Let me explain, what I mean.

It’s a young country – your Republic of Moldova, since the civil war 1992 separated in two parts by the river Dnestr, a multicultural area drawn by separatism, seeking and dreaming a common background and identity, a country, where ¼ of the 4 Mio inhabitants are working anywhere abroad in Western Countries, transferring about 200 Mio Dollars per year at home to their families – but the foundation of companies, small enterprises, that is still missing to form the national economic stability.
And here – the courage of installing a centre for those who are living at the social border, traditionally segregated, not really those who contribute to the economic welfare of a country, but rather dependent on the State’s support.
And here I feel is the mission, the challenge, the warning and the admonishment! A centre without barriers: that means: let’s come together, bring together all our physical and intellectual capacities, all our power, use the fascinating development of the new information and communication technology, profit of the international and scientific prestige of this university, the research and educational background of these two faculties involved, form a network of partnership with the Ministries, the City authorities, the special schools and Higher Education institutions in Chisinau and round in Moldova – and above all gain the profit of the high reputation of the Moldova Blind Union.

A new world for the VI community and – I am sure – an input and future transfer to other disabilities, too!
“Without barriers!” “Without borders!” – perhaps as well a political mission crossing the Dnestre – the Republic of Moldova, among the poorest countries in Europe look for its fringe group and gives a European wide example!

Why do I risk to talk like this? What’s my experience?
In 1986 – more than 20 years ago – I started at the Technical University Karlsruhe inside the Faculty of Informatics with a special programme “Informatics for the Blind” dedicated to open new study and professional possibilities for visually impaired people by consequently using the new information and communication technologies. You know, traditionally blind persons when entering Higher Education choose book studies like Literature, Language, Law, Social Studies, History and Journalism – Mathematic formula and graphics were and still often are the barriers to study Math, Sciences, Economics and Engineering.
These were the borders we wanted to exceed, to cross over. Nowadays we have blind students studying Electrotechnics, Physics and Industrial Engineering, Informatics. All study materials are transferred in an adopted electronic version, the students get access by an electronic platform, a personal mobility training and an individual working station ensures their independence and inclusion into a regular learning and living surrounding. Special exam regulations fit with their disabilities. International exchange programme give them the chance to compete with their sighted peers at a global dimension.
We started as well as a small center, with a lot of scepticism around of us and opponents too – but with the years we received an international reputation by our comprehensive concept of personal support, pedagogical and technological research and an intense cooperation with IT developers.

The Centres at the TU Dresden, the University Linz, TU Prague, Comenius University Bratislava, University Tomsk are based on our experience. An international network including the European countries until Universities in the USA stabilize staff and students exchange.
We broke barriers, opened minds and political institutional, bureaucratic borders.

I am glad to be able to support the growing of this small plant here – I promise to be with you whenever the first young steps/leaves towards continuity and sustainability begin to sway. I know the City or Chisinau has a partnership with the City of Mannheim – that’s less than ½ h south: Karlsruhe, the University and our Centre.

I wish you all the best to the Opening of the Centre here in Chisinau!

Underlining our partnership I would like to hand over a present to the Centre: two Electronic magnifying glasses in pocket size for mobile partially sighted people.