The Rector Confesses
Lately the guest of Facebook conference organized by radio “Azatutyun” was YSU rector Aram Simonyan. Taking advantage of the conference we also asked the rector about educational problems of students with disabilities.
I would like to mention, that when Aram Simonyan was YSU vice rector, we met for building a ramp for one of the branches. He expressed readiness to study all possible variants and to make adjustments from the YSU budget, mentioning that it’s not appropriate for YSU to do that on account of other organizations.
However lately the Faculty of Journalism of YSU has been renovated, which was one of those buildings of the university where it could be possible to build a ramp and to adjust at least the auditoriums of the first floor for students with mobility disorders. However, no adjustments were made in the building. In the answer to my question why no adjustments were made, Aram Simonyan today answered, “It’s quite correct question, and I regret that we didn’t keep our promise. Regarding the central building, we did our best but the architects rejected to build a ramp there as it is not possible to do that in present conditions. Only a lift can be there. And regarding the building of the Faculty of Journalism, yes, it’s our fault. Although it was expensive, we should have taken the costs. I promise to deal with that problem seriously in September, at least to solve the problems of ramps. Yes we must do it. Unfortunately our buildings are designed on the basis of projects which do not consider such ramps and it’s difficult to make any changes inside. But we’ll do it for the first floor. We have that opportunity for one or two buildings. It is done already for the new building but there are no ramps in old buildings not only because of constructive reasons but also because of our fault. I think we have an opportunity to fix that”.
It’s strange that saying adjustments many people imagine only ramps, moreover ramps outdoors. Yet, auditoriums, toilets and the buffet are also included in the responsibilities of the university and that’s why all measures, besides ramps, can be taken: lifts, wide doors, handles, comfortable furniture etc. Importance should be given to that. In the response to our question how the rector is going to review the policy towards students with disabilities so that the education of the major university becomes accessible for people with different difficulties according to international standards, Aram Simonyan added, “I would like to say that many things are being done, but we have a lot more to do. Especially we are concerned with making our manuals available for students with visual impairment but I would confess that it’s difficult, as we have lack of specialists. Truly said, we have never taken purposeful actions to make the manuals available for them. Regarding video and audio lessons, yes, they are done. It’s a continuous process, probably not with the speed that we would like to have. We have virtual teaching for some subjects, for example Armenian Studies, Social Work, and Sociology. We intend to continue this from this autumn, we have found financial means and we have a studio where video shootings will be done. However I can’t say that it will include all specializations. We are a little far from western standards, we must reach them but we have many difficulties, first of all financial”.
The students with visual impairments, whom we know, have solved their problems themselves, with the help of their friends, lecturers or members of their families, using own recordings, recorders and other means.
A graduate of YSU and American University of Armenia, Armine Ghazaryan, who has studied in the USA and England, speaking about the difficulties which she came across during studying, mentions, “I have spent a huge amount of money and efforts on Braille books and literature which I had to scan page by page. In Armenia I was solving my problems myself, and in abroad the university itself”.
Artak Beglaryan, who has visual impairment, mentions, “At YSU I have studied as other students, no special conditions were created, which would take into consideration my special needs. I myself have solved all the problems without expecting any help from the university. From the other side I can say that the lecturers and the staff of the university had very understanding approach to my difficulties”.
As the majority of people with disabilities were students with visual impairments, some experience has been gained which, however, is not used by the university. Yet YSU can use this experience not only to develop educational programs to make them available but also to represent it as an example to other educational institutions. Anyway, it’s not we who should teach YSU what is education according to international standards or educational availability and accessibility. We just remind about the educational right of people with disabilities and responsibilities of the state university.
Image photograped by armin.am.