Studying in Germany as a disabled student is nothing different compared to studying as a student without any disabilities. This is thanks to the high-quality and well-organized education system which aims to be equally accessible to every student regardless of their physical abilities.
In the past years, German universities have investigated the disabled students’ needs and have improved the ways they can cater to their needs. They have improved their facilities, their study curriculums, their student unions, administrative services and a long list of many specific services. This reflects their national commitment to equal treatment for disabled people as in 2009 they have signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Although most of the universities have a comprehensive coverage of disabled students’ needs, the wide range of specific needs prospective students can have makes it harder for them to identify and solve all of them prior to your commencing of studies.
For this purpose, there are many organizations within the campus whose mission is solely to help these students finish their studies successfully. It is important for you to know how you can reach these associations and how they can help you.
We’ve done our best to distill all the important information about studying in Germany as a disabled student and condense it in this article, so you can get prepared in advance before coming to Germany.
When studying in Germany as a disabled student your first station (after student unions within the university campus) where you can address your disability matters is the Deutsches Studentenwerk.
What is Deutsche Studentenwerk?
The German state has established a number of organizations whose mission is to address student affairs, including here disabled students studying in Germany. These organizations are called Deutsches Studentenwerk.
Deutsches Studentenwerk are non-profitable organizations that work on identifying students’ common problems and solving them.
Currently, in Germany, there is a wide network of these organizations, each covering a particular area and a particular number of universities. These organizations are under the umbrella of another larger governmental organization called the German National Association for Students Affairs.
Their main help for disabled students studying in Germany is helping them find a proper place to get accommodated. As an international student in an unfamiliar environment, you may appreciate having someone find a handicapped-accessible room for you.
At your local area, there will possibly be one of these Studentwerkes where you can ask for this kind of help. For other additional requests (for example, your accessibility in the campus) you need to ask at the university’s office for disabled students.
University’s office for disabled students
By law, German universities are responsible for solving every disabled student issue. In compliance with their commitment to this law, they have established specific associations within their campus.
Their role is to support disabled students attending a course at their university, address their concerns and offering adequate solutions. If you’re an international student with a disability willing to study in Germany, you can also ask the International Student Office for support.
Normally they should have a particular department that deals with the disabled students’ needs.
What kind of assistance can I seek for as a disabled student in Germany?
The university is strictly obligated to guarantee your attendance in every aspect of the education process no matter your disabilities. In advance, you must let the university representatives know what your needs are.
In general, here are the kinds of assistance that are in your right to ask for:
- Rearranging the study program
- Specific academic adjustments
Accessibility for Disabled Students
As for the accessibility, universities are obligated to ensure you can freely move within the campus. An illustration of this are wheelchair stairs which enable disabled students to have the necessary access to classrooms, libraries, dining halls, dormitories and other university facilities.
Accommodation for Disabled Students
Also, universities maintain specific accommodation conditions for disabled students studying in Germany. Quite often these students have the advantage of being the first enrollees to be accommodated in a dorm.
Rearranging the Study Program
Based on the student’s request, the university may rearrange their study program and match it with the student’s needs. In this way, the student will receive the proper education they are pursuing, the same as everybody else in the university.
Another important type of assistance disabled students studying in Germany can seek are formal academic adjustments. For instance, a student may find it hard to stay in line with an assignment deadline or the time limit allotted for taking an exam. In these situations, their tutor is obligated to give more time for them to complete the tasks.
However, aside from the advantages mentioned above, while studying in Germany as a disabled student, you need to take care of your personal specific medical needs entirely on your own.
For example, a disabled student who needs a person to convey him/her the information given in a university lecture through sign-language will have to pay for such help on their own. Or, if you need to take medications, the university won’t cover them.
Scholarships for studying in Germany as a disabled student
Studying in Germany as a disabled student is characterized by an additional fantastic feature: Scholarships.
In Germany, there are numerous foundations and organizations, other than the governmental-funded scholarships, which offer funding help and scholarships for students with higher academic potential.
Usually, these scholarship schemes have the same granting criteria for all candidates regardless of their disabilities, so disabled students will have to apply as regular. But they still may carry some minor advantages compared to non-disabled students.
The best is to contact the International Student Office and their department for disabled students and they will inform you in details if your university can support them financially by granting a scholarship or financial assistance.
Do I need to prove my disability?
Yes, you do. This is the only way the university can identify you as a student with special needs and be able to offer you the proper assistance you request.
You must seek a doctor to prove your health conditions. The doctor that issues you the medical certificate to confirm your disability will have to use two classifications, ICD and ICF, both recognized by the World Health Organization.
Keep in mind, that your health certificates must be translated by a legal translator in order to be accepted in Germany.