A helpful website for disabled students and students with learning disabilities
The University of Iceland is obliged by law to insure that information for disabled students is accessible and easy to find. Despite that there are a lot of things that can be improved and it can be hard to find information about solutions for students with learning disabilities. The team behind Rights-Ronja wants to improve access to information for those university students that are disabled or struggle with learning. To make that possible, the team collects information and places them in one place, in order to help students know their rights and what can be done to help them.
The idea first came to be within The Student Equality Committee two years ago. A handicapped student approached the committee as they had not gotten the service that they needed and they were unsure of what rights they had to claim that service. In the spring of 2015, Rakel Rós Auðardóttir Snæbjörnsdóttir and Sigvaldi Sigurðarson, members of the committee that year, saw an ad for applications for a grant from the Student Innovation Fund from Rannís and saw a good opportunity to research disabled students accessibility. They teamed up with Eirík Smith, a PhD student at The Center for Disability Studies and he became supervisor of the project. They were given the grant and started working in the summer of 2015.
Access to information considered bad
Interviews were taken with focus groups of students that require special service within UI where those students spoke of their experience and their ideas about services. The focus group consisted of 17 participants and the results of the interview were used in the decision making. All participants agreed that information for solutions could be more visible. Over half of all participants thought that access to information for services and rights was insufficient.
Very few thought that the website for Student Counselling and Career Center, www.nshi.is, was useful, and everyone thought that they would use the website of Rights Ronja. When looked into these matters, it was clear that the solutions were not aimed at individuals and that there was a prominent lack of information.The team worked through the results of the interviews and analyzed the quality of current services. They also collected additional necessary information about services for students and what solutions they have available to them.
Not just an information provider
They decided to collect information onto a website that was connected to the University, that is on the student web since it concerns students rights. Rights-Ronja is now an information bank at the url student.is/ronja. This part of the web will be useful for both future and current students. It also helps improve transparency in the administrative system and improves the rights and services of disabled people. Rights-Ronja is not just an information provider but also provides pressure to improve services and access to it at every university in Iceland. The web also allows students to compare services of universities and therefore make a more informative decision when choosing where they want to study.
The main goal of the project is to expand the current website so that it can be useful for all Icelandic university students. Just like when Rights-Ronja was originally created an analysis of needs within the universities will have to be made and improvement of the web would be based on the results of that analysis. Disabled students and those with learning disabilities in other universities but UI would gain a lot from the website of Rights-Ronja, as information about rights regarding their university would be more accessible.
The team is now made up by four employees with different knowledge and backgrounds. It consists of Sigvaldi Sigurðarson, with a BS. degree in Psychology from UI, who worked on the original Rights-Ronja, Daníel G. Daníelsson, a 3rd year BA student in history at UI, Anna Margrét Björnsdóttir, a MA student in computer science at UI and Magnús Jóel Jónsson, an undergraduate political science student at UI.
Journalist: Ingvar Þór Björnsson
Translation: Guðný Ósk Laxdal
Article first published in 4th issue, vol 92. of Stúdentablaðið.