By signing the statement, the UT declares it aims to create an inclusive study environment and ensure that the university is accessible for students with disabilities. ‘It is a natural step in our process of becoming as inclusive and equitable as we can,’ says the UT Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer Sterre Mkatini.
Declaration of Intent on the UN Convention for studying with a disability
In 2017, ECIO (then still Expertise Center for Disability + Study) in collaboration with Leiden University, NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, VU University Amsterdam and the National Program Office for the UN Convention, drew up a Declaration of Intent that includes a joint ambition, process agreements and objectives for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Including the UT, there are now eighteen higher educational institutions that have signed the letter of intent.
By endorsing the declaration, the UT now also becomes a member of the National Working Group, in which all co-operating educational institutions collaborate and exchange ideas that can help them achieve their goals through a national platform.
Plan for improvements
‘We have been planning to sign the declaration for a while, but we first wanted to create a work group to find out what issues students with physical disabilities as well as neurodiverse abilities are actually experiencing on campus and how we could improve on them,’ continues Mkatini. ‘Before the official signing, we wanted to make sure that we are ready to make changes. Together with the group, we came up with a plan, which has received full support from the Executive Board and which allows us to outline who is accountable for what within our university.’
This plan includes suggested solutions, such as providing disability-related training opportunities for staff members, making sure that every university building is accessible for individuals with a disability and ensuring that the Kick-In is inclusive in all its activities regardless of ability.
‘Most inclusive region’
The UT isn’t the first educational institute in Twente to add its signature to the declaration. ‘Saxion has already signed and we hope ROC will do so as well. Together we want to become the most inclusive educational region in the Netherlands,’ says Mkatini. ‘We need to be more intentional about this effort. We want to create a true sense of belonging for all students who decide to study in Twente. Hopefully this declaration shows people that we are aware of the challenges and we are committed to working on them.’