Babes-Bolyai University – Cluj-Napoca, Romania

The Centre for Accessible Materials is part of the Department of Special Educational – Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences but offers support to all blind students at the University. The initiative to open the programme/office came from the university’s academic staff as the number of students with various disabilities increased. In 2003, a Centre for Accessibility of Materials for students with visual disabilities was established in the Department of Special Education. In 2013, the Office for Students with Disabilities was established to address the needs of students with other special education needs and disabilities. For 20 years they have been able to make materials accessible to students who are blind, and for 10 years they have been able to provide support to all students with disabilities who contact them. The programme supports persons with disabilities and staff and students with special educational requirements.

Over the past two years, the office has implemented the following activities related to equal access/inclusion/diversity:

  • 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 major influences the office has are accessibility of materials for blind students, events to promote inclusion and disability, and volunteer recruitment.

The programme also uses innovative practises/tools. They were the first university to implement in CARTA that people with disabilities receive educational support from the university.

The reason for establishing the programme was the growing number of students with various disabilities. When the programme was created in 2003, the office was responsible for materials for blind students, but after 10 years, due to the increasing number of students with various disabilities, the focus was shifted to the entire population of students with various disabilities, not just blind students.
The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) is coordinated by the Rector of the University, who also provides funding for the programme. The OSD structure includes a coordinator, a special education teacher, a documentalist, and a sign language interpreter. The office complies with national legislation on the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities. The administrative decisions of the OSD are subject to national legislation and the autonomy of the university. The office is part of local, regional, and national networks with which it communicates with other professionals, exchanges ideas, solves some problems and provides professional support. Diversity, inclusion and equality are explicitly mentioned in its programme/office as well as in the University’s strategies, policies and work plans.
The biggest challenges that have had to be overcome to establish a successful program have been the small number of staff in OSD and sometimes the lack of interest from students with disabilities to participate. Funding for the programme is fairly stable and is funded by the rector of the university. The programme also relies heavily on unpaid volunteers.
They do not have a formal programme/office evaluation process. They measure their success by the number of students with disabilities who were counselled or offered assistance, recommendations to adapt courses and exams for students with disabilities, materials made accessible, and events held.

The Office of Students with Disabilities

Babes-Bolyai, Romania