Support to students with disabilities and health issues

Statement of student needs
1. Students with disabilities and health problems should contact the Officer in charge of Social Support Office to declare their difficulties. 2. A considerable number of the affected students are identified through various procedures, such as:
  • the Student Admission with Special Criteria procedure
  • when students declare their difficulties by completing the university inscription form
  • when referred by their professors
  • when referred by external institutions and associations
  • Student needs assessment
    1. When an affected student is identified, a personal meeting is held with the officer in charge of the Social Support Office. During the meeting, the difficulties and potentially required facilitations will be discussed and recorded. The student must provide all medical documents, evaluations, and doctor’s recommendations he possess, in accordance with the “Disability Documentation Form” [link], as well as any recommendations for facilitations from the District Committee for Special Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture, or from the equivalent body in the student’s country of origin.
    2. The Officer in charge of the Social Support Office completes the dedicated form with the student’s personal details and academic support needs.
    3. The Student Welfare Committee (SWC) evaluates the student’s needs, taking into consideration the relevant legislation and international practices.
    4. The student is informed about the SWC decision and the kind of assistance that the University can provide him with. Academic Facilitations to Students Form [link]
    5. When the student’s written consent is acquired his professors, the faculty member responsible for student support, and the president of the department are notified in writing. Data Processing Explanation and Consent Form [link]
    6. Academic facilitations remain in effect until the next re-evaluation of the student’s needs, unless their health condition changes before that, or if the facilitations where only offered for a specific time span. The re-evaluation of students facing psychological-emotional conditions or learning difficulties will be determined by Mental Health Centre of the University of Cyprus.
    7. Students facing psychological-emotional conditions or learning difficulties and need support or want to let their professors know, are referred or welcome to visit on their own the Mental Health Centre (MHC) of the university (email: mentalhealth@ucy.ac.cy, tel.: 228892136) for evaluation of their needs. They should bring any past diagnoses, evaluations, and medical documents, if such documents exist. After the evaluation of student needs by MHC, a meeting with the Officer in charge of the Social Support Office will be arranged, and the same procedure as for students with disabilities or health problems will be followed.
    8. If necessary, explanations will be provided to the professors and faculty responsible for supporting the student, both regarding the nature of the required facilitations and the ways to handle the difficulties faced by the student.
    9. The student and if necessary, also the professors, are informed about the total number of hours that have been allocated for extra tutorials or other means of supports provided and about the compensation that the student providing the support will be entitled to.
    10. The nurses of the University of Cyprus are informed about all students with disabilities or health problems (but not for those students with psychological-emotional conditions and learning difficulties).
    Social issues of students
    Students who face social difficulties must present official certificates proving those problems (e.g. Death Certificate of a family member, report prepared by an Office of the Social Services Department, etc.)

    Support to students with disabilities and health issues with regard to teaching - Recommendations to instructors

    Students with learning difficulties / dyslexia
    Learning difficulties is a general term encompassing a diverse group of disorders which manifest as remarkable difficulties in acquiring and utilising listening, speaking, reading, writing, concentration, or numerical skills. Those disorders are genetic and attributed to malfunctioning of the central nervous system (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 1990). People with learning difficulties usually dedicate more time to study because they may suffer for constrained memory resources and therefore be unable to remember information, face difficulties in organising their study session, read with difficulty and/or have trouble with writing. Dyslexia belongs to this group of learning difficulties, but it only concerns difficulties faced when it comes to writing and reading. As a consequence, dyslexic people might find it difficult to read a text with a good flow and while maintaining an appropriate register etc, but also have hard time understanding it. Their written output might also appear poor or problematic (e.g. poor expression, lack of punctuation, unreasonably high number of spelling mistakes). Regardless, if asked to orally respond to the same topic, they are likely to perform much better. People with learning disabilities or dyslexia, as adults, use supportive technology to aid them perform at their full capacity (e.g. it is better for them to listen to a text instead of repeat-reading it multiple times, they feel safer using a computer with spell-checking turned on to write, etc). Their learning is aided a lot if alongside the text there’s also audio-visual components, diagrams and bullet-point outlines. Recommendations to instructors
  • Make lecture notes and presentations available beforehand
  • Include audio-visual content in the lectures and presentations you prepare. This helps the entire lecture audience, not just students with learning difficulties.
  • When a written task is to be completed in class, it’s best that you explain the instructions step by step, if the student with learning difficulties finds that useful.
  • Students with hearing impairments
    Students with hearing impairments may have a different levels of hearing ability, and use various different ways to communicate. Consequently, students should be consulted to establish which methods are preferred, to ensure better communication. Some people have reduced hearing levels and are called Hard-of-Hearing, and some people do not have any hearing at all, and are called Deaf. Deaf people may be pre-linguistically deaf (i.e., they have lost their hearing before acquiring a spoken language) or post-lingual deaf (i.e., they have lost their hearing after having been exposed to a spoken language and they used that for communication in the past). These two types of Deaf individuals may use different ways of communication now. People with hearing impairments understand spoken language through interpretation into a sign language and/or by lip-reading. Lip-reading individuals underwent a lot of practice to achieve it, and their success rate varies from person to person. Lip-reading requires concentration and can be particularly difficult if the speaker speaks very fast or moves constantly around the room. People who communicate in a sign language may be accompanied by an interpreter. In this case, the interpreter is tasked with translating the instructor’s words into sign language.

    Recommendations to instructors
  • The instructors must stand opposite the student with hearing impairments when they speak, and take care to avoid standing in front of a bright window, not to talk too fast or too slow, not to cover their mouth or chew anything while talking.
  • The instructors must make sure to project the lecture’s main points on the projector screen, or to write them down on the board or overhead slides.
  • If during a lecture a new term is introduced, it’s advisable to write it on the board or project it on-screen. When students write down new terms or lecture points, the instructors should avoid talking.
  • If the number of students and the layout of the classroom allow it, it’s best that students sit in a semi-circular or U-shaped layout, so that the student with hearing impairments can maintain eye contact with all members of the student team. When sitting in that layout, the instructor can use the projector to record keywords summarising the in-class discussions. Those slides can be given to the student at the end of the lecture. It’s important to signal change in topic of discussion in-class with some sort of keyword.
  • When an in-class assignment is handed out, provide time for the student to read the text and questions before giving instructions.
  • When an in-class depends on listening (e.g. playing a song from a CD, watching a documentary), the transcript must be provided in writing.
  • When one is using hearing-aids, it’s necessary to limit noise in the classroom. When noise is present, the hearing-aids amplify the noise and the student will not be able to follow the lecture. The instructors will be notified in case they need to wear a dedicated microphone.
  • • If a sign language interpreter is accompanying the student with hearing impairments, the instructor must speak at a steady pace, and they should not direct their speech to the interpreter, but to the student directly.
  • Students with visual impairments
    People with visual impairments may be partially-sighted (i.e., they can see up to a certain point), or Blind (i.e. they cannot see at all). Some people are born with a visual impairment and others acquire it later in life. It can be a permanent or temporary condition. People with visual impairments access written works using the Braille script and/or by using text-to-speech software, which reads aloud text shown on the computer using a synthesised voice. They may also use other equipment (e.g. screen-magnifying equipment), which instructors should be familiarised with.

    Recommendations to instructors
  • The instructors make sure to provide all material relating to the lecture in a format that will best serve the student. More specifically, if the student uses speech synthesis or Braille, the material should be provided in a digital format which will allow computer software to render text into voice or to print it in Braille. If the student can read text when converted to uppercase, the Library services will convert the lecture material into the format desired by the student.
  • In case the instructor wants to give the class a text or worksheet that was not made available before the lecture, either to the student or to the Library services, then the instructor is responsible to print it in upper-case script, with a font-size and typeface that suits the student’s needs (this information is listed in the letter the Social Support Office sends to the instructors at the beginning of each academic semester).
  • If during the course of a lecture a video or film is shown, then the student will need a personal by their side to provide audio description of the actions depicted that they cannot see. This person can be the instructor, or the chaperon if one is present.
  • If the student requires help to move around, one should place their left or right hand on the student’s arm, walk alongside them, and advise them when they need to move left or right. One should always ask the student before they offer such assistance.
  • Faculty members in charge of student support

    Ι. INTRODUCTION
    Within our push to provide the most comprehensive and multifaceted support to students with special needs, the University of Cyprus has formally established the Institution of the Faculty Member in charge of Student Support since September 14, 2009. (Decision of the Student Life and Student Affairs Committee). Each Department has its own Faculty Member in charge of Student Support, which is appointed by the Board of each Department. Faculty Members in charge of Student Support work closely with the Academic Affairs and Student Welfare Service (Social Support Office) which is responsible for supporting students with disabilities at the University of Cyprus through the adoption of a series of academic and other support measures, with the approval of the Student Welfare Committee, with the aim of enhancing the personal and academic welfare of the students, including the provision of specialised services and/or specialised equipment, in cooperation with various departments of the University of Cyprus (e.g. the Library, or the Technical Services). At the beginning of each academic semester, the AASW Social Support Office, having secured the consent of the affected student, notifies the student’s instructors, the Faculty Member in charge of Student Support, and the President of the Department about the presence of students with disabilities in certain courses. In addition, they receive written explanations by the Social Support Office about possible academic accommodations which students require based on their needs, as well as information regarding the various supportive measures offered by University of Cyprus services.
    II. THE ROLE OF FACULTY MEMBER IN CHARGE OF STUDENT SUPPORT
    1. To collaborate with the instructors of students with disabilities in order to deal the problems they face and the academic support that should be provided in each case.
    2. To keep scheduled office hours for meetings for students with disabilities in their department who need to consult with them.
    3. To make sure, throughout the academic year, that the necessary academic support to students of their department by the instructors are provided, through regular co-operation and communication with both the professors and the students themselves.
    4. To collaborate with the Social Support Office and academics to find students to provide extra tutoring services and other assistance to students with disabilities, as part of the support measures implemented by the University of Cyprus.
    5. To cooperate with the Social Support Office for any clarifications and/or problem resolution regarding the application of the academic support measures that each student is entitled to.
    6. To participates in seminars and educational programs on the topic of providing support for students with disabilities.
    Supportive tutoring to students with disabilities and health issues
    Instructions to students supported and people providing support to students with disabilities and health problems:
    1. The Social Support Office must be directly informed by students who require extra tutoring, to initiate the process of finding a student/alumnus to provide academic support.
    2. The form is completed by the student who receives supports and is signed by both the student receiving support and the person providing the support, and it is submitted to the Social Support Office according to the timetable announced by the Social Support Office.
    3. The "Assistance Record for People with Disabilities and Health Problems" form should indicate the total support hours provided each month, with the corresponding fees, which should not exceed the total amount of the allocated support grant for this semester.
      1. If the cost of the support exceeds the amount allocated for this semester, then the student who is supported is responsible for paying the extra amount to the student/alumnus who provides the support.
      2. In case the support cost of any semester is lower than the student is entitled to for this semester, then the balance cannot be used for the next semester.
    Equipment provided to students with disabilities
    Information currently provided only in Greek. For any inquiry, please contact the Social Support Office.