THE NATIONAL STAR MODEL OF ACCESSIBILITY SUPPORT CENTRE FOR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES IN MONTENEGRO
The vast majority of today’s young adults see higher education as a way to earn society’s respect and insure career advancement and financial security. The decision about which university to enrol is a hard process of itself and has a considerable consequential effect on future career prospects and professional opportunities. The complex task about university enrolment becomes even more complex for people with disabilities. In many countries, university regulations, teaching processes and student organisations are adopted in order to provide full support for students with disabilities (SwDs) providing equal opportunities for studying, acquiring new knowledge and skills, and expanding social links and connections. The general lesson learned from many countries is that communicate effectively with learners, parents and colleagues from all agencies and support collaborative practice to benefit learners; work with colleagues to develop individual plans to ensure the consistent deployment of any necessary support, aids and adaptations to meet learners’ needs. However, countries that are facing rapid changes and development challenges in all areas that are relevant for societal progress and prosperity, are still lagging behind in the provision of support to SwDs. In this paper we present the model with star structure at national level which is established in Montenegro (MNE) reflecting all the specifics of this country. All activities presented in the paper are funded by TEMPUS project titled ‘Support and inclusion of SwDs at HEIs in MNE’.
Since MNE is a small country characterized with multitude in lacks of coherent structure and institutional and governmental support for students with disabilities; high readiness and openness for providing support and full inclusion in higher education institutions (HEIs), more sophisticated model was needed in order to establish sustainable support which includes both public and private universities with no differences or privileges.
The main challenges that were needed to be addressed by reform were the following:
(i) the absence of a coherent and integrated system of financial and benefits support for students studying at HEIs,
(ii) the lack of a progressive and holistic support system – one that bridges ‘transition stages’ between school-higher education and work;
(iii) the lack of specialized administrative and academic staff trained to give proper support to SwDs;
(iv) the low level of technological infrastructure intended to facilitate the inclusion of students in HEIs;
(v) poorly-developed pedagogical support for guidance and counselling;
(vi) variability in the provision of environmental support infrastructure, such as signage, ramps and specialised accommodation facilities;
(vii) the lack of a coherent structure to support collaborative action between different stakeholder groups;
(viii) the lack of opportunities to support greater awareness of the needs of SwDs.
Having in mind currently so low number of high school SwDs representing candidate number of students at HIEs, a star model of students’ support was established, consisting of a Student Advisory Office (SAO) as a central organization with branches organised as specific Units at each HEI. In this paper we present specific regulation among each part in the model which overcomes all heterogeneity among institutions, providing unique flow of data and responsibilities with cost effective sustainable plan and organisation.