Competent study counseling at REHACARE 2015

Foto: Christiane Schneider

Christiane Schneider: "Our work focuses on promoting self-determination and support for the development of personal and social skills of people with disabilities and/or chronic diseases."; © kombabb

Planning to study at an university means an especially high organizational effort for pupils with disabilities and/or chronic diseases. The competence center kombabb supports affected people in the transition between school and university. Certified pedagogue Christians Schneider from the kombabb team talked to about the work of kombabb and the focus of their trade fair presentation.

Mrs. Schneider, what are the most important questions that prospective students with disabilities need to ask themselves before starting a course of study?

Prospective students with disabilities and/or a chronic disease have to ask themselves the same questions like prospective students without disabilities, for example which line of work they want to choose after graduation, what they want to study and where and how they can finance their studies. But prospective students with disabilities and/or a chronic disease have to take into consideration their own specific life situation. They have to ask themselves the basic questions too – only when they have found their own answers on these questions can they take a look at the practicability. To ascertain the practicability they have to take a closer look at the conditions which have to be given at the chosen university. There is also the question if they will be compensated for their disadvantages before and during their studies or if they will be granted assistance. And last but not least they have to search for the right consultation to help them with all these questions.

It is important to keep in mind in this case that drawback balancing is not an advantage! Students with disabilities and/or a chronic disease usually do not find the conditions they need. This means a disadvantage compared to students without physical limitations. To establish equal opportunities they have the right to receive compensation for disadvantages. These may be, for example, recognition of hospital stays as waiting time when applying for an academic course or a time extension for tests.

When looking at the desired university and city they also have to keep in mind if they fit the personal needs, for example if they are accessible by wheelchair. More questions our clients ask are how to find an accessible apartment or assistance. Very important is also how to finance the additional costs related to disabilities. There always is much to consider and to clarify.

Screenshot: kombabb-Internetportal

The kombabb online portal consists of an information area with texts on all the major topics, a list of useful external links, a forum for experience exchange and a database with information on contacts and accessible offers of all universities in North Rhine-Westphalia; © kombabb

How does the kombabb competence center help prospective students with disabilities to start an academic education?

We provide competent counseling and support for prospective students with disabilities and/or a chronic disease in the form of personal counseling, information events, our kombabb online portal or here at REHACARE.
Our work is focused on peer counseling. This means that we, the counselors from the kombabb team, have not only from the kombabb team not only have the professional qualifications (we are all certified pedagogues) but also have personal experience because of our own disabilities (walking disability and visual impairment). The counseling includes all relevant information and additionally a psychosocial component.

We support and strengthen those seeking advice, for example in dealing with their disability and/or chronic disease, their effect on the study and the necessary conditions such as the granting of drawback balancing. Especially people with non-visible disabilities have to decide for themselves whether they divulge this. After all, those who do not want to state that they have disadvantages cannot get any disadvantage compensations and thus forgo this claim.

Our work focuses on promoting self-determination and support for the development of personal and social skills of people with disabilities and/or chronic diseases and the strengthening of capacity in terms of training, study and work. We pursue the implementation of inclusive education in accordance with the UN Disability Rights Convention. In this sense we are an initiative of the Action Plan "A Society for All - Inclusive NRW" ("Eine Gesellschaft für alle – NRW inklusiv") and are funded by the Ministry of Labour, Integration and Social Affairs (MAIS) of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).

Photo: Audience during an exhibitor lecture

The two exhibitor seminars of kombabb at REHACARE 2015 will deal with all aspects of the topic "Studying with a disability"; © Messe Duesseldorf/ctillmann

Is your offer directed only at prospective students with disabilities or do you for example support family members as well?

The largest group is the pupils with disabilities and/or chronic diseases, but the parents are often the ones which initially contact us. In most cases, we try to get in touch with the pupils, since it all is about their personal future. Their ideas do not automatically coincide with those of the parents, as I know from my own experience as a mother. Often students and parents come to counseling together.

To us it is important to emphasize that not only people in wheelchairs or with other supposedly typical disabilities are among our target audience, but also people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, Asperger's syndrome or a mental disability.

What will be the focus of your exhibitor seminar at REHACARE 2015?

Our presentation focuses on important questions about study choice, disadvantage compensations, support and financing and gives an overview of the offers of our counseling center. If there is time, personal questions can be asked, which we can of course also discuss at our booth in Hall 3 E91.

Foto: Daniel Stöter

© B. Frommann

Daniel Stöter