“Everything is automated”: University of Toulouse facilitates the experience of students with disabilities

If a few devices in Toulouse help disabled students to continue their education, there is still much to be done.

Determined to become astronomers, researchers or doctors, they ignore their disabilities and enter university. “I go to class with my electric wheelchair, 20 minutes max for the furthest”, welcomes 27-year-old Pierrick Dubreuil, a third-year physics student. It’s passionate “stars, planets”Suffering from Little syndrome, cerebral palsy, he joined his 33 m2 studio, which was then decorated with Marvel and posters and figurines. Star Warson the first floor of an adapted university residence.

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“Everything is automated. Doors open automatically with my badge. Height-adjustable desks, even for cooking, a shower cabin (…) I’m lucky to have a lot of space. It’s easier when you use Walker.”, she told AFP, her eyes twinkling behind asymmetrical glasses with black and white checks. Its 250 furnished accommodation units are managed by the Regional Center for University and School Affairs (Crous), with 197 other rooms, studios or one-room flats adapted to different accommodation and 20 automated flats for the severely disabled.

Third time and the clerk will write the evidence

“We also work to support students through entertainment (…) theater workshops, evenings (…) The aim is to fight isolation”, explains Dominique Froment, general manager of Crous d’Occitanie. The University of Toulouse has more than 100,000 students in various locations in the region, including 1,800 with disabilities. Their numbers are growing: the first generation to benefit from the provisions of the 2005 law on equal rights and opportunities from kindergarten has just entered university. In 2020, more than 39 thousand students were disabled in France. According to the Ministry of Higher Education, 1.82% of the student population.

As elsewhere in France, students can get make-up time for exams, a secretary to write tests, help with taking notes in class, headphones to reduce noise, etc. they can request. “I’m one of those entitled to a secluded room because I have so many tires”Pierrick jokes.

“There are still teachers who don’t know how to support us (…) They are not evil, they just don’t know.”Aubin Delaveau, 26, president of the association of autistic students La Bulle!

She also smiles Manon Ohayon, 18, a life sciences freshman at Paul Sabatier University. “I thought that when I got into college, the pursuit I had in high school wouldn’t be extended, but it really is.” Suffering from a disability “invisible”emetophobia – fear of vomiting, cause of eating disorders, hospitalization and strict diet – it “The right to receive notes by other students” if not, “compensation time” if he feels bad, to make up for what was lost when he left the exam room. “My teachers are also aware”he explains over lunch at the university restaurant Le Canal.

It is possible to cross the line there and “Acoustic arrangements are in place to prevent autistic students from being disturbed by noise (…), quieter seats are reserved at the back of the room”adds its director, Frédéric Calmettes, whose staff is trained to help those at risk of not eating, rather than dealing with crowd-generated sensory attacks.

There is still much progress to be made

If the devices are multiplied, it remains to make progress. According to a university survey, 64.4% of students with disabilities say they face difficulties due to their condition. So if Pierrick tells himself “Very helpful with administrative procedures” remains by the university’s dedicated social worker and disability referents “things to change”. “When I asked for specific course notes or other resources that could help me, there were absolutely none (…) Maybe there will be more courses in PDF or video format in the future”quotes.

Aubin Delaveau, 26, holder of a master’s degree in applied mathematics and president of the La Bulle association of students with autism! “There are still teachers who don’t know how to support us (…) They are not malicious, they just don’t know. Good things have been done, but we can go further to make the university more inclusive.”

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