Disability Case Studies

This page is part of the Inclusion Case Studies from the Inclusion Framework.
On this page, we showcase policies and practices that show how national and institutional legislation and strategies translate into specific provisions for students and staff with disabilities.

Please note that the following information is correct at the time of writing (November 2022), but is subject to change.

CY Cergy Paris Université

Disability Service

CY’s Disability Service operates in accordance with a 2005 law on ‘Equal rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship for disabled people’, Higher Education Institutions in France must make necessary adjustments to enable students with disabilities to access all university services.

CY’s Disability Centre and Reception Service for Students with Disabilities (SAEH) provides the following services:

  • Welcome, advise and help students with disabilities in the pursuit of their education, and inform them of their rights
  • Implement procedures and measures to optimise students’ autonomy, facilitate their integration, and give them access to knowledge
  • Organise and monitor the implementation of study arrangements identified by the University Service of Preventive Medicine and Health Promotion (SUMPPS)
  • Coordinate all actions on the issue of disability, including awareness-raising Develop partnerships with external disability structures and institutions.

Over the last 10 years, the number of students with declared disabilities has tripled. In 2021/22, 467 students benefited from the above services. 

Measures to be implemented are discussed and validated by a multidisciplinary team, comprising the Disability Project Manager, the Training Manager, the staff of the Disability Service, and other health staff. Students can book a personalised interview with this team to identify their needs before the start of the study programme, which is followed by medical consultations (where appropriate) and an annual review of the arrangements made. These arrangements can include peer tutoring, part-time study, special equipment, alternative modes for providing course content, and adaptations for exams.

The disability webpages describe the procedures, available adjustments, external organisations who provide advisory and financial support, and awareness-raising events.

Orientation resources

Among the events run by the Disability Service is the Handifac Conference, an evening event to welcome prospective students, explain Parcoursup (the national Higher Education access service), present CY’s disability policy, and outline the available adjustments. Attendees are encouraged to arrange follow-up meetings with the Disability Service, and the take-up rate is fairly high (usually over 70%). The conference also gives attendees a space in which to network and share experiences.

The financial services company Société Générale, who since 2017 have run a programme to promote the employment of people with disabilities, have played an important role in supporting CY’s Disability Service. In the 2018/19 academic year, they funded the creation of a guidebook to inform people about different types of disability, the different departments working on disability in the university, and the types of support available. The guide features comic-book vignettes to convey information in an accessible and entertaining way. As of 2022, the development of this resource will be supported by Atos.

Mental Health First Aid (PSSM)

CY offers free training in Mental Health First Aid (PSSM), run by trainers from the University Service for Preventive Medicine and Health Promotion (SUMPPS), funded by the Val d’Oise Department Committee (CDVO) and also supported by the Regional Health Agency (ARS).

This training enables students to:

  • Acquire basic knowledge about mental health disorders
  • Better understand the different types of mental health crises
  • Develop relational skills: listen without judgement, reassure the other person and give information
  • Cope with aggressive behaviour
  • Test and take ownership of an action plan that can be used to provide immediate support
Training groups of 15 participants are trained over two full days, or taught in several modules across a semester. To complete the training, students complete a questionnaire on the website of PSSM France. Students can submit an additional reflective piece about how the PSSM training has helped them to manage their own mental health.

Handicap & Talents Week

The Handicap & Talents Week (part of ESSEC’s Mission Handi-Capacités programme) has been organised by ESSEC Business School since 2015, but has recently been opened up to other schools in CY, and to staff as well as students. It is overseen by Elisabeth Forget, with academic support from Laurent Bibard and Junko Takagi.

The event focuses on how disabilities are managed within companies: through a series of accessible and enjoyable activities, it aims to raise awareness about the requirements and challenges of relevant legal frameworks, break down stereotypes, and empower students and staff to navigate these issues in their professional lives.

Participants can obtain a certificate at the end of the week, validating their knowledge of disability issues in companies and thus enhancing their employability. From 70 participants in the first iteration, the event now attracts around 200 attendees, and more than 840 people in total have been awarded the certificate. The training has been transferred online in recent years, which makes participation easier and has contributed to the boost in numbers.

PHARES Programme: Beyond Disability, Advancing and Achieving in Higher Education

The PHARES Programme, overseen by the Centre for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at ESSEC, is a student tutoring system which promotes access to high-ranking Higher Education Institutions for middle and high school students with disabilities in the Val d’Oise region.

Participants engage in a series of Saturday classes and week-long vacation events, hosted on the CY Cergy campus or facilitated remotely (with screen-reader compatibility enabled). They participate in games, debates, theatre workshops, cultural visits, and team-work exercises to develop their cultural awareness, critical mindset, and rhetorical and organisational skills. Student volunteers from ESSEC contribute to the running of activities, as do members of external enterprises and professional actors.

The programme nurtures attendees’ personal and professional development, helping them to understand the nature of Higher Education, the skills expected in university, and how they can make the most of their own unique attributes. This is also an opportunity for ESSEC students to understand issues relating to disability, and to develop new skills through a transformative human and civic experience: these skills are essential for future recruiters and managers. ESSEC itself benefits from the programme by developing better relations with local organisations.

University of Gothenburg

Legislation and Strategy

The Swedish Discrimination Act (2008) stipulates that employers must actively prevent discrimination on the basis of several protected characteristics, including disability. The university is obligated by this and the Work Environment Act (1977) to make its working conditions and environment accessible for people with disabilities. Sweden’s National goals and focus for disability policy (2016) also emphasise that people’s differing needs and conditions should not be a decisive factor in their participation in education or the labour market.

All Swedish universities are required to abide by the Swedish Higher Education Act (1992) and Higher Education Ordinance (1993), which give students the right to be involved in decisions that have a bearing on them, and state that universities must ensure that all students (including those with disabilities) can participate actively in their study programmes. The Swedish Library Act (2013) regulates the operations of all Swedish libraries and stipulates that they should be accessible to all, including people with disabilities.

Compliance with these regulations is monitored by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) and the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR). The Swedish Equality Ombudsman operates on behalf of the Swedish government, and takes action against discrimination: for instance, a 2018 lawsuit led to a Swedish university being fined for having failed to make accessibility provisions for a hearing-impaired student.

The University of Gothenburg has developed several policies to implement national legislation. High-level guidelines regarding disability can be found in the rules and regulations for first- and second-cycle and third-cycle studies, and in the Rules for Examinations (2018) and Rules for Syllabuses (2019), which state that students with documented disabilities can apply for adaptations. These adaptations are implemented in accordance with the Vice-Chancellor’s Delegation of Authority Policy (2020).

The Swedish Agency for Participation’s accessibility guidelines (referred to above) underpin the University of Gothenburg’s Accessibility Policy (available on the Equal Opportunities policy webpage) and accompanying action plan. These documents outline goals and measures in the following four areas: (i) norms and values, (ii) organisation and operations (e.g. support to staff with disabilities, recruitment, procurement), (iii) physical environment (e.g. buildings, service facilities), (iv) information and communication. The responsibility for upholding the policy and action plan lies with the vice-chancellor, the library director, the heads of departments, head of communications, and head of facilities and buildings. The Accessibility Policy was originally created in consultation with academics, administrative staff, and students.

National Initiatives for students

The implementation of targeted study support for students with disabilities is funded by the Swedish government up to an amount equivalent to 0.3% of the university budget for first- and second-cycle studies (although note that the University of Gothenburg funds this support to a level of 0.55% of the university budget). The administration of these funds is overseen by a Coordinators’ Network, led by Stockholm University. This network has produced a Coordinators’ Guide (unpublished) that establishes common principles for the implementation of study support and accessibility in Swedish Higher Education. Stockholm also oversee a shared National Student Disability Support grant, available to all Swedish universities.

The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (SPSM) offer free skills development and knowledge dissemination throughout Sweden, to ensure that education providers can meet the needs of all students. Since 2014, the Swedish Agency for Participation (MFD) has also disseminated knowledge and experience regarding disability and accessibility in all areas of society.

The Swedish Agency for Accessible Media (MTM) is a government agency under the Ministry of Culture. Their main mission is to make literature accessible to people with disabilities in collaboration with Swedish libraries, as well as inform and promote understanding on reading impairments. The audio recordings of books (or ‘talking books’), which they make available to students with reading impairments, are protected by Copyright Law, and this provision is facilitated by the so-called Swedish talking book model. Eligible students can borrow accessible literature from MTM via the digital library Legimus. MTM also provides access to course texts in Braille or as e-texts.

University provisions for students

The University of Gothenburg’s Unit Educational Affairs employs study support coordinators who oversee provisions for students with disabilities. The provisions themselves are designed in consultation with teaching and administrative staff within the university, and information about them is communicated to existing students via a central webpage, and also to prospective students and study counsellors at schools.

Upon enrolment, students can apply for support via the National Administration and Information System (NAIS), a portal used by all Swedish universities. The student is then contacted by a study support coordinator so that they can describe how their disability affects them and learn more about the support available. Students with documented disabilities receive a certificate of study support, and discuss the adaptations they need with their academic department and the study support coordinators. Students can also participate in peer support programmes where they act as mentors and note-takers for other students.

The university library has invested heavily in making their services more accessible, introducing sit/stand desks and desk-bikes, study support software and ‘talking books’, 1-to-1 consultations for individual students (via a range of in-person and digital communication methods), lectures to introduce students to helpful resources and techniques, and staff workshops about inclusive teaching methods. The library’s support team can provide some services to students who self-certify as disabled without the need for official documentation. All students can download free software to facilitate reading and writing, such as speech synthesis, spelling programs, magnification and screen reading programs as well as translation tools. These programs can be installed on the student’s own computer and be used throughout their studies.

The University of Gothenburg’s PIL-unit (unit for Pedagogical Development and Interactive Learning) provides mandatory teacher training to all university staff, including doctoral students. The first module (equivalent to 5 ECTS) introduces accessibility and inclusion, based on two course readings addressing ‘how to teach accessibly’, and pedagogical strategies to prevent disability from being a barrier in Higher Education. The PIL-unit also oversees the administration of joint university digital systems, platforms, and pedagogical tools. All digital systems must follow the guidelines (known as WCAG 2.0) set by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which is run by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The university is also working to make study support more accessible for visiting international students with disabilities, and for students who study part-time due to a disability and are therefore excluded from full-time exchange programmes.

University provisions for staff

Staff at the University of Gothenburg staff can consult Occupational Health Services, Human Resources, health and safety representatives, and their line manager to discuss concerns about and possible adaptations to their work environment. These conversations can be re-visited during annual development reviews.

Every department has at least one health and safety representative, nominated by members of the department and formally appointed by local employees’ organisations. Health and safety representatives may request investigations of work environments to verify conditions, and represent employees’ interests in other ways.

University of Ljubljana

Legislation and strategy

The Slovenian Employment Relationships Act (2013), Protection Against Discrimination Act (2016), and Code of Conduct for Civil Servants (2001) legislate against discrimination on the basis of disability (amongst other protected categories).

More specifically, the employment of people with disabilities is promoted by the Public Scholarship, Development, Disability and Maintenance Fund of the Republic of Slovenia, which also monitors employers’ compliance with applicable regulations on the rights of people with disabilities: for example, the University of Ljubljana needs to fulfil a 3% quota of employees with disabilities. The Act Amending the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities Act (2021) states that employees with disabilities can request workplace adaptations on an individual basis.

One of the University of Ljubljana’s development goals for 2021-2023, as stated in its most recent Work Programme, concerns the development of solutions for the inclusion of ‘non-traditional candidates’ for higher education, for example through adaptations to study programmes. These actions are carried out in accordance with the definitions of disability provided in article 69a Slovenia’s Higher Education Act (1993).

The university’s work in this area is overseen by the Centre for Teaching Excellence, the Committee for Student Affairs, and the Committee for Students with Special Status (referred to in the next section).

Special Needs status for students

Students at the University of Ljubljana can apply for special needs status upon enrolment or at any time during the academic year. They are informed about this opportunity before application and upon acceptance onto a course of study. Before applying for the status, they can talk to a designated member of staff about their needs, expectations, and concerns. The Committee for Students with Special Status assesses and makes decisions on all applications. Rules regarding special needs status are published on the university website.

Students who obtain special needs status can receive various forms of support, such as tutoring, mediation services with instructors, sign-posting to central services (e.g. counselling, the medical centre, the Centre for Social Work), and information regarding relevant extra-curricular events. Disabilities and health conditions are also taken into account in the financing and assignment of student housing.

There is a strong emphasis on providing 1-to-1 support for individual students and acting on their feedback regarding the services provided. Special support is available for first-year students who are new to university and encountering a range of problems or obstacles for the first time.

A set of central webpages outline the key information regarding special needs status, including a list of the designated staff, across all departments, who can support students with special needs. Students can also find guidance on the university’s career service website.

Specific adaptations for disabled students are implemented through dialogue with the students and their tutors, and can include flexible timing for classes and examinations, hearing induction loops in lecture rooms, and adjustments to PowerPoint presentations or other learning resources. The university library has invested in ergonomic tables, reading aids and magnifiers, e-readers, and other equipment to support student learning; they have also adapted their services to be more accessible, for example by offering longer borrowing times and distance-borrowing services.

The university’s provision in this area is regularly monitored and reviewed through annual student surveys. During the Covid-19 pandemic, support services have moved online and worked hard to provide special adaptations relating to remote study, including referrals to qualified experts for those suffering mental health problems. A great deal of work has also been done to improve the accessibility of the university’s website, so that it is easier to engage with for disabled users.

The university has published numerous monographs and guides on teaching students with special needs and the self-advocacy of students with special needs.

It should be noted that the special needs status is also granted to students who are top athletes, recognised artists, participants in international competitions, or parents.

Slovenian Association for Disabled Students

The Slovenian Association of Disabled Students (DŠIS) was founded to promote the rights and interests of students with special needs in Further and Higher Education and to offer a range of support and activities for independent living, studying, employment and social life. Currently, the Association brings together 212 students and graduates with various types and degrees of disability or special needs.

The DŠIS offers:

  • Non-formal learning courses and workshops
  • Cultural, sporting and social activities at home and abroad
  • Transportation services
  • ICT support
  • Facilities for printing, copying and enlarging study materials, or adapting printed materials into accessible electronic documents
  • Personal assistance services
  • Counselling and advice regarding studying, adjustments, student housing and other disability-related rights.

The Association also investigates the study and employment conditions of young people with special needs, and on this basis makes policy proposals and runs awareness-raising workshops and training.

Association of Vocational Rehabilitation Providers of the Republic of Slovenia (ZIZRS)

ZIZRS promotes the vocational rehabilitation and employment of people with disabilities. The Association contributes to the drafting of relevant legislation, ensuring that its members’ interests are represented in these larger conversations. ZIZRS also contributes to expert materials prepared by the Development Centre for Vocational Rehabilitation at the University Rehabilitation Institute Soča, which has enjoyed a long and close relationship with the University of Ljubljana’s medical faculty.

ZIZRS coordinates Youth Transition (2018-2021), an EU-funded project that promotes the social inclusion of young people with special needs, and aims to support their transition from school or university into the labour market. The project is led and coordinated by Maja Zovko Stele (who studied Special Education and Teaching at the University of Ljubljana), and includes 14 providers of employment rehabilitation programs.

Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona

The following examples illustrate the range of services UPF provides to students with special needs. Many of these are facilitated by the University Community Assistance Service (SACU), who also oversee various cultural and sporting activities, volunteering projects, and extra-curricular internships.


Inclusió: customised support

The UPF Inclusió programme offers customised support to students with special educational needs. The support process begins with an interview before the start of the course (made using an online scheduling system), to determine what support and resources the student needs. Students can also contact this programme to declare their needs at any time during the academic year, up until fifteen days before the start of exams. 

An individual support plan is devised, specifying adjustments to classes and exams based on the student’s needs. The student can also make use of services and resources such as computers with adaptive programmes, enlargement of text font, digitisation of documents.

Teachers are duly informed about each case and have the opportunity to send any thoughts, doubts, or concerns to the support team.

Adaptations are reviewed every quarter, in dialogue with the individual student, to ensure they are still adequate, and the student also completes an evaluation form at the end of their course of study.

Student volunteers are trained to provide various kinds of assistance (and can receive ECTS credits for this work). There is also a training programme to improve the experiences of deaf or hearing-impaired students, by teaching them sign language and raising awareness about the challenges faced by deaf or hearing-impaired students.

Online guidance

An online Care Guide gives full information regarding available support structures and resources, not only to inform students but also to raise awareness among staff who are teaching students with special needs: tutors play a very important role here.

There are lists of specific actions and resources, including campus orientation and curricular provisions. Students can also get support with internships, grants, fee discounts, and job placements, including links to websites designed to help people with disabilities to find employment.

Additionally, students receive information and guidance regarding the accessibility of campus buildings.

Psychological Support Service (SAP)

UPF’s free-of-charge Psychological Support Service (SAP) is aimed at supporting undergraduate and postgraduate students in adapting to the university lifestyle, facilitating personal stability and academic efficiency. It is especially intended to support students who are suffering an exceptional period of stress or lack of motivation. The service is run by professional therapists with a thorough awareness of university life.

The SAP conducts a survey of student users every semester, and its yearly reports are published online. It also undergoes a thorough review every four years before the contract (with the external provider) is renewed.