Studying with a Handicap

Over 90% of disabilities and chronic illnesses are not visible. However, chronic and mental illnesses as well as partial performance disorders such as dyslexia have no less of an impact on studies than physical and sensory impairments. But just differently. Recognising this and acknowledging the consequences is often not easy for teachers, advisors and fellow students. Nor, by the way, for those affected, as the results of the study "Studying with Impairments" show.

Students give up counselling and rights

Most of the students with a non-visible impairment do not perceive themselves as "disabled", although they are according to the legal definition. This has consequences: Many do not know that they are entitled to disadvantage compensation and do not feel addressed by the existing counselling services. Others, especially in an environment where performance and elitism play a special role, do not want to come out as impaired, as a person with special needs, as "disabled". They prefer to forego their rights - often to their own disadvantage. In order to maintain equal opportunities and increase academic success, higher education institutions are committed to measures to compensate for disadvantages and to ensure accessibility.

Representative for Students with Disability

The tasks of the representative for students with disabilities find their legal basis in the Framework Act for Higher Education (§ 2 para. 4), the Thuringian Higher Education Act (§ 5 para. 5) and in the Basic Regulations of the EAH Jena (§ 3 para. 7 and § 24). The tasks of the representative for students with disabilities essentially include coordinating the various offers for disabled and chronically ill students, representing the interests of those affected within the university and providing them with advice in individual cases of conflict. In any case, applicants and students with disabilities should contact the representative for students with disabilities as early as possible to discuss the necessity, type and scope of a disadvantage compensation and to enforce the claims. The design of the compensatory measures must always be regulated individually.

If organisational, temporal or other problems with the requirements of study or examination situations arise due to a chronic illness, disability or partial performance disorder, this can be remedied by:

  • informal application and
  • submission of a medical certificate or an equivalent certificate showing the effects of the disability on the course of study and possible modifications,

a disadvantage compensation can be applied for. The certificate can come from therapists, specialists or general practitioners. In some cases, a company doctor's certificate is necessary. Diagnostic tests (e.g. for reading and spelling difficulties) should not be older than 5 years. A diagnosis does not have to be mentioned in either letter. It is important that the disadvantage compensation is applied for before an examination and approved by the responsible examination office. Measures to compensate for disadvantages may not affect the assessment of academic and examination performance and may not be documented in performance records or certificates.

Application procedure and supporting documents

  • Counselling: Representative for Students with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses
  • Apply for compensation for disadvantages in good time and in writing to the  Examination board or at the examination office

What can disadvantage compensations be?

Compensations for disadvantages can reduce difficulties in access to studies, during studies and in examinations. They can be granted permanently or on a one-off basis. They should always be examined on a case-by-case basis and discussed with the student's individual needs.

Examples of compensation for disadvantages in examination performance:

  • Extension of the processing time for examinations, homework or final papers (e.g. in the case of dyslexia, motor impairments, loss of concentration due to illness, ADS, Asperger's syndrome).
  • Rest breaks during examinations (e.g. in the case of visual impairments, taking medication that impairs concentration)
  • Separate processing room during examinations (e.g. in the case of concentration disorders due to illness, Asperger's syndrome)
  • Division of examinations into parts
  • Personnel or technical support during examinations (e.g. sign language interpreters)
  • Substitution of one form of examination by another (e.g. oral instead of written, individual instead of group examinations, homework, etc.)

Examples of disadvantage compensation in the course of studies:

  • Audio and video recordings of the course
    Substitution of compulsory attendance times (e.g. in the case of chronic illnesses)
  • Lecture notes and handouts for preparation and follow-up work
  • Modification of practical courses
  • Written supplements to oral examinations for hearing-impaired students or students with speech impairments
  • Extension of time for homework, examinations, etc.
  • Extension of examination time if interruptions to examination preparations were necessary due to poor health
  • Special financial regulations for students with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses.

Further information and advice centres

German Student Union

Student Services Thuringia

State of Thuringia