Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences – Wrocław, Poland

Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences (WUELS) has a Support and Accessibility Centre. The office was created in 2021 by the Vice-Rector for student affairs and education to support students with psychological problems and with disabilities. Currently, this office supports mainly LGBTQ students/staff, persons with disabilities and students with psychological problems. These equity groups were proposed/identified by the university’s internal policies, by national plan/legislation and by students.

The activities that this office has carried out (in the last two years) with regard to equal access/inclusion/diversity are:
• support and counselling for students and university staff;
• lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty and non-teaching staff;
• Improving physical accessibility;
• Improving digital accessibility.
The activity with the greatest impact was the support and counseling offer given at this university. The number of students who receive support is growing steadily and awareness of the needs of people with special needs, among the academic community, has also increased.
The last innovative practise/tool introduced when it comes to ensuring inclusion, diversity and equal access was the production of video courses on different types of disabilities for academic staff. They help understand what problems different students face and give tips on how to help them.
In addition to activities to support inclusion, WUELS implements measures/activities to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices through binding policy (legislation), recommendations/guidelines, a strategy/action plan and preventive programmes.

“The main reason for this University for establishing this office was the number of students with special needs that had increased, especially after the pandemic period. There was a need to provide psychological support, but also to make the university more accessible to students with disabilities and other needs. The factors crucial for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish a service for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff were multiple: Polish law on ensuring accessibility for people with special needs; Logo HR Excellence in Research; Gender Equality Plan and the European Commission’s Open, Transparent and Merit-based Recruitment of Researchers Policy applied in this university. This is a successful office because it gives students the opportunity to get support, in various forms, in a single place: psychological, career counseling, customization of the study process to meet specific needs. “
The office is not governed by national policy (laws, strategies, action plans, national programmes). However, this university is implementing the EU program “University of Environmental and Life Sciences accessible to all.”
“In the Centre, three psychologists work and one other person responsible for supporting students with disabilities. There is also a Career Office Section, where four people work: career counselors and business advisors. Diversity, inclusion and equality topics are mentioned in this office and at the university’s strategies, policies and work plans. Decisions are made by the director of the Center in consultation with the Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Education and with Rector’s representative for disabled persons. “
“The main challenges to establishing this service were funding to increase accessibility and to change the mindset of the university’s community. That’s why, at this university, various types of training courses to raise awareness of various needs are conducted. This office is funded by the University’s budget, support fund for people with disabilities and the EU Programme “”University of Environmental and Life Sciences accessible to all”” and has no obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the office. It has a stable budget and its work is not dependent on unpaid volunteers. “
“WUELS does not have a formal evaluation process of this office. However it uses indicators to measure success such as: number of students and staff who get support; number of consultations and training sessions held; architectonic and digital accessibility declarations and report on the state of university accessibility. The evaluation data is collected through the university’s own database and it is disseminated/placed in the rector’s annual report and the university’s accessibility status report is placed on the website. “

Support and Accesibility Centre

Wrocław, Poland