The service point is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) – initially for a period of three years. The offer is intended to enable those affected who are studying or would like to study at a university in Graz to study without barriers in all phases of their studies. The service point is located at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). (Prospective) students with hearing impairments up to and including deafness can now contact gestunoSpam@tugraz.at. GESTU-Graz project manager Melanie Graf-Mandl and two specialists in Austrian sign language, Laura Janisch and Madlen Berger, are responsible for the activities.
Advice for students
The three staff members initiated the new service point based on their experience with a deaf student who they have been supporting for two years. Lack of funding for sign language interpreters; lecture halls with poor acoustics that make lip-reading difficult due to their size and the distance between the seat and the lecturer; online lectures without subtitles: “Here we learned about the challenges that hearing-impaired people face in their studies,” says Graf-Mandl. Now they advise prospective and regular students of all the Graz universities individually – also in sign language – at the beginning of their studies (enrolment, course registrations, study procedure), during their studies up to the final examination and generally on course and examination modalities.
Organizational support services
In addition to ongoing advice, there are also organizational support services for students. For example, sign and speech-to-text interpreters are organized and/ or their costs are covered; student assistants help with note-taking, give extra tuition or assist with written work. In class, technical aids such as portable induction loops are available for acoustic sound transmission, and recorded lectures are subtitled.
In addition, the service point raises awareness internally and sensitizes teachers as well as university staff to the topic of deafness and studying.
Integration into existing range of offers
GESTU-Graz works intensively with the service point Accessible Learning, which is also located at TU Graz. This service point also advises and supports students who need support in their studies due to disability or illness. In addition, the service point creates low-barrier workplaces and study places, supports the design of inclusive courses and counteracts social prejudices through information, networking and cooperation.