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Disabled student: Studying abroad should be simpler

Accommodating disability should be taken seriously by universities, yes even the University of Copenhagen, according to Tom, who writes for handicap student group HSK

University of Copenhagen student Tom Fletcher addresses issues concerning disabled students on the site of HSK – a handicap student network. His aim is to inspire and challenge people with disabilities by blogging about different activities he gets involved in while living in Copenhagen.

It is no secret that the University of Copenhagen has a poor record in terms of accessibility to disabled students (it was the subject of a University Post theme ‘No wheelchairs here please’ back in 2010, where Copenhagen turned out to be a shock for a disabled student.)

Tom has so far been satisfied, and wants to help others: ”In total, it took me about a year to figure out what it would be like to live in Denmark. It is helpful to do some background research and visit the city before making a final decision. It also gives more confidence. By investing some time, you can have a better picture of your exchange,” says Tom.

See our article about a recent Erasmus initiative to improve study abroad access for disabled students.

Where ‘flat’ landscape is good

Tom came to Denmark as an Erasmus student a year ago with the help from Handicappede Studerende Og Kandidater (HSK), a volunteer organisation providing support for disabled students. Denmark was an attractive destination for him particularly due to its flat landscape, good transportation system and short distance from the UK, where he comes from.

The six-month experience in Copenhagen has inspired him to come back to take a Master’s degree, and he has taken on a new role as a volunteer blogger for HSK. He wanted to give back to the organisation, which had helped him greatly to settle down in a foreign country.

Tom also points out that while it is tempting to choose exotic destinations, the quality of education should be given the first priority. And the students of diverse backgrounds, the teaching tradition and the history of the University of Copenhagen appealed to him. ”In the end, you are studying abroad for an academic reason,” he says.

Consider special needs in housing

For students with mobility impairments, finding accommodation in Copenhagen is extra challenging. Tom considers himself fortunate to have found accessible housing located right near the KUA campus.

”It had to be near enough to the university so I wouldn’t have to travel great distances everyday. I also needed access to lifts. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t get the place where I am staying now.”

He is concerned that some student housing options from the University of Copenhagen Housing Foundation are available strictly based on the fields of study and do not take special needs or disabilities into account. ”I would like to see disability being factored in when you apply for housing so students have a greater chance of getting a place that suits their needs. It’s a big issue for the university,” he says.

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