Camilo José Cela University (UCJC) and Pablo de Olavide University (UPO), two institutions with extensive experience in training young university students organised the 1st State Meeting of Students with Learning Disabilities that will take place on 15 and 16 June at the UCJC’s main Villafranca Campus. This is a pioneering project in Spain since, for the first time, university students with learning disabilities take part as speakers in an academic meeting.
The event, financed by the ONCE Foundation and the European Social Fund within the Unidiversity programme and whose technical secretariat has been managed by the Altavista Foundation, aims to promote national mobility and the exchange of university students. In addition, with a view to promoting the full inclusion of people with disabilities, this event aims to provide students with a unique university experience aimed at improving their autonomy, their academic training and their work autonomy, while promoting equal opportunities, breaking barriers, prejudices and stereotypes.
The inauguration was attended by Emilio Lora-Tamayo, rector of UCJC, David Cobos Sanchiz, vice-rector for Culture and Social Policies of the UPO; María José Parejo Guzmán, academic director of Integration and Functional Diversity; Isabel Martínez Lozano, director of Universities and Promotion of Young Talent of the ONCE Foundation, Rosa María Díaz Jiménez, academic director of the FEVIDA program and dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the UPO and Joanne Mampaso Desbrow, academic director of the Expert University Course in Social and Job Skills Training.
In the words of David Cobos, “we continue to delve into the continuous and intense work that we have been developing at Pablo de Olavide University for years, and that we have specifically wanted to promote and strengthen even more. This is the first time that our neuro-diverse students leave the city to live an experience that I understand to be tremendously enriching for them”.
For Joanne Mampaso, “the university exchange programme (PIU) is an academic space self-managed by students with learning disabilities that allows them to live, share and enrich learning. This is one more commitment to promote new and enriching experiences on campus. It is a transformative challenge that aims to contribute to developing new ways of approaching our students’ learning, typical of our academic model”.
Academic life, experiences in the classroom and inclusive subjects, daily life on campus or personal autonomy, are some of the issues that will be addressed during the presentations.
In addition to celebrating the event in person at Camilo José Cela University, the UPO set up a venue at their campus in Seville to follow the event online. Undergraduate students were invited to share subjects with students from this university course.
Other university students with and without disabilities, third-sector staff, university teaching staff, administration and service staff from both the UCJC and from various parts of Spain and Portugal will attend in person and online in order to enjoy this great moment.
32 students from the university social innovation programme
Thirty-two students took part from the programmes for students with functional diversity from the two universities participating in this meeting, 17 from the UPO’s own degree in Training for Employment and Autonomous Life (FEVIDA) and 15 from the UCJC Expert University Course in Social and Job Skills Training.
Both degrees are part of the university social innovation programme financed by the ONCE Foundation, which aims to prepare and train young people between the ages of 18 and 29 so that they can improve their chances of employment and independent living. During the academic year, students receive 30 credits training in practical, humanistic and professional subjects on the university campus, which they will complete with extracurricular activities, activities shared with undergraduate and postgraduate students of official studies, as well as other actions that are developed within the university community.
“We hope that this meeting will be the first of many and that in the coming years we can count on other universities to promote national mobility and the exchange of university students with cognitive functional diversity”, explained Rosa Díaz, academic director of the FEVIDA programme at the UPO. “It’s about learning, collaborating and joining forces on the path of university inclusion”, she underlined.
“We are especially excited to be able to live inclusive, shared and innovative academic experiences that favour spaces for personal and professional development. The exchange of university students with intellectual disabilities is, in itself, another vital moment for these young people, their families and their faculty. This unique experience aims to be a new contribution to university inclusion” said Joanne Mampaso Desbrow, academic director of the UCJC Expert University Course in Social and Job Skills Training.