Going to study abroad for a period of time is a challenging time for young people, as they are facing an unfamiliar environment, a new language and culture to name but a few things. In addition, it can be more even more difficult for students with disabilities who may face inaccessible environments or disability-related stereotypes. As recognition of such challenges, ESN developed the ExchangeAbility project to make our organisation accessible for students with disabilities, to help remove obstacles to participation in exchange and promote the opportunities available.
The ExchangeAbility project was also initiated due to a recognition of the current situation regarding the mobility of students with disabilities. According to the data from the European Commission, during the academic year 2009/10 230 students with special needs receiving a supplementary grant participated in Erasmus for study. This represents 0.14 % of all Erasmus students. Although an increase compared to the previous years has been observed, the number is still exceptionally low.
Aims of the project
The project has dual aims that can be summarised as:
- Making ESN a more accessible association for disabled students at all the levels of its activities. This means that ESN wants to provide the conditions and opportunities for the disabled students to actively be involved in the work with international students and therefore to benefit from the exchange programmes at their home universities.
- Increasing the number of students with disabilities going on exchange. The long-term vision of the project is to promote the opportunities and support offered for students with disabilities to study abroad. Also, ExchangeAbility works with ESN sections, HEIs and organisations that are experts in the field to create the best conditions possible for disabled students during their stay abroad.
ESN Sweden Involvement
ESN has compiled an interactive map showing which universities in Europe have facilities for students with disabilities. Sweden currently shows five universities on this map.
During the recent ExchangeAbility Training and MapAbility conference in Brussels, ESN Sweden sent two delegates to bring knowledge back to our sections. When asked what were the main achievements, they answered:
"The main achievements were to gain the knowledge and needed skills to start working with the project in ESN Sweden and its sections. Also to be able to coordinate the EA project and introduce it to all possible ESN sections in Sweden, on behalf of creating better cooperation between our ESN sections and as a result on being successful on implementing the base of the EA project, also create better cooperation of ESN Sweden with other national boards."
Check out a short video about our involvement in the conference:
Should you have any questions, please write an email to: