Babes-Bolyai University – Cluj-Napoca, Romania

The official name of the program is the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). It was established in 2013 at the Babes-Bolyai University to address the needs of students with disabilities. These equity groups were identified and proposed by national plan/legislation, university’s internal policies, by students, based on relevant academic and policy research, suggested by community, citizens and other external stakeholders. The initiative to establish the program came from academic staff who observed an increasing number of students with disabilities coming to the university.

The OSD has been actively engaged in various activities to promote equal access, inclusion, and diversity for students with disabilities. These activities include:

  • Support and counselling for students and university staff,
  • Lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty and non-teaching staff,
  • Training courses for peer educators,
  • Public promotion (e.g. production of media content such as podcasts),
  • Improving physical accessibility,
  • Improving digital accessibility

The accessibility of materials, events promoting inclusion and disability, volunteer recruitment have had the greatest impact on students’ inclusion.

In addition to activities to support inclusion, the program implements binding policy (legislation), strategy/action plan and recommendations/guidelines to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices at the university.

The program also implements innovative practices/tools, being the first university in Romania to introduce in its university charter that people with disabilities need to receive educational support from the university.

The motivation behind establishing the OSD was to address the increasing number of students with disabilities seeking education at the university. The initial focus was on making materials accessible to students with visual impairments, which led to the creation of a dedicated center in 2003. However, recognizing the need to support students with various disabilities, the Office for Students with Disabilities was established in 2013. The purpose of the OSD is to provide comprehensive support services, promote equal access to education, and ensure the inclusion and diversity of students with disabilities at the university. This office has been able to make materials accessible to blind students for 20 years, and for the past 10 years, it has provided support to all students with disabilities who reach out, which highlights its significant accomplishments.
The organizational structure of the OSD involves coordination and management under the Rector of the University. The OSD is led by a coordinator who oversees its day-to-day operations. The structure also includes a special education support teacher, a documentation specialist, and a sign language interpreter in order to enhance diversity and inclusion. The Centre for Accessible Materials, which is part of the Department of Special Educational Sciences within the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, collaborates with the OSD to provide support to all blind students at the university.
Both the OSD and the university’s strategies, policies, and work plans explicitly mention diversity, inclusion, and equality. The OSD aligns its activities with national legislation on the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities. The decisions regarding program design and other activities are made internally among the members of the OSD, with recommendations for adaptation provided by the OSD Coordinator. The OSD also consults with the responsible pro-rector for management decisions.
One significant challenge in the development of the office was limited staff size within the OSD. Additionally, there were instances where students with disabilities showed a lack of interest in actively participating, which further complicated the process. The sustainability of the OSD relies on funding from the Rectorate of the University.
The programme currently does not have a formal evaluation process in place. Nevertheless, they do measure their success using various quantitative and qualitative indicators. These indicators encompass the number of students with disabilities counselled or provided support, recommendations for adapting courses and exams for such students, the accessibility of materials, and the hosting of events.

Babes-Bolyai University

Cluj-Napoca, Romania