Learn about Exchange in Graz, Austria.
Generally speaking, Austria’s attitude toward individuals with disabilities is still growing. There is an underestimation of abilities. The government’s policy towards the idea of equal rights and opportunities is just starting to take place in legislation. The group of students with disabilities at the university is quite small, but most are studying successfully.
There is a Disability Services office on campus which helps arrange test accommodations, sign language interpreters, personal attendants, wheelchair accessible housing, note-taking services, and relocation of a class to an accessible building.
Most of the buildings and classrooms are wheelchair accessible. Sometimes classes can be moved to another class if not accessible. The University can arrange the following: converting classroom materials to Braille or large print, textbook taping, readers, scribes, and lab assistants. A community organization can arrange for a mobility orientation to campus. Service dogs are allowed in classrooms. There is no Braille signage on buildings, elevators or classrooms.
Sometimes sign language interpreters can be provided for classes and at orientation sessions or other events required by the program. The interpreters available use German Sign Language.
There are no induction loops or similar technologies in lecture halls and classrooms. No captioned videos and decoding equipment can be obtained.
Note-taking services and special examination facilities have to be individually organized. Students may be able to obtain the syllabi several weeks before the class begins. All instructors allow test accommodations. Most instructors will allow modified deadlines for assignments, alternative ways of completing assignments, and will allow tape recording of their lectures. Depending on the subject, calculators may be allowed when taking tests.
Wheelchair accessible transportation has to be organized by the student. Depending on the subject, excursions may require extensive walking and may not have wheelchair accessible restrooms. Mobility assistance or companion and sign language interpreting must be organized by the student.
The University assists students with disabilities in finding housing. Service dogs are allowed in sponsored housing. A personal attendant is available to international students through community resources. Some university housing is wheelchair accessible. There are no TTY’s or alert systems for the deaf. Most housing has kitchen facilities for personal use which would include refrigeration for students to store prescribed medication. The dining facility is wheelchair accessible. Assistance carrying trays, cutting foods, etc. has to be organized by the student. There are not any provisions to accommodate special dietary needs.
The technology available on campus include a scanner, Braille printer, text magnification software, large screen for reading magnified print and speech output system.
There is a small library on site that is located on the ground floor. Assistance could be available to help access the library materials.
Taxis, buses, and trams are available daily from 5am-12am. Half of the buses are wheelchair accessible. There is designated campus parking for people with disabilities. Public transportation is 1 km or less to the student housing, classes, and health services.
Additional Information on Accommodations for the Blind
The international student coordinator spoke with several people regarding hosting a blind student and feels that appropriate accommodations are already in place. The director of the disabilities center at KFUG is blind and she said different departments have different strategies to facilitate blind students. Specific accommodations will largely depend on what kind of courses the student wants to take.
Most foreign students are interested in the courses called 'German for exchange students' at KFUG. The coordinator there has already worked with a blind student and it was successful. Handouts were scanned and the student got the material on discs. The faculty teaching English-German translation courses have also done a lot to accommodate the needs of blind/visually impaired students. The German department hasn't had that much experience with blind students so far but are willing to do as much as they can to accommodate the student's needs (i.e. handouts on discs). Also, a colleague from our library can translate German texts into Braille.
A blind student who is a little flexible and has a laptop should have no problem studying at KFUG. The director of the disabilities center, Ms. Levc, is currently on maternity leave but will be back at work at the beginning of December. The student could then talk to her directly and organize the academic aspects of the exchange and things like mobility training around campus etc.
Housing-wise it depends how independently the student wants to live. In a standard dorm, a student would his/her own room in an apartment of 5-6 and share kitchen & bathroom facilities. Cooking, shopping, and washing would be the student’s responsibility and it would be necessary to use public transportation a lot. Another option might be to go through the Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Graz, about a 10-15 minute walk away from the university. It has its own primary & secondary school with a dorm and they are very organized. There things like washing, ironing etc. are taken care of, students get 2 meals a day, and there's always someone in the kitchen to help cook for the residents. A blind student could also join various clubs and self-help groups there.