The Future is Accessible: Building a Barrier Free Space for Education

Celebrating International Day for Persons with Disabilities 2019

Through its partnership with The University of Gondar partners and Queen’s University, the Mastercard Scholars program is forging new pathways for young people with disabilities – a population that traditionally faces significant barriers to accessing education. The program brings a much-needed perspective that enables the Foundation better understand the needs of talented young people living with disabilities. The goal is for the three organizations to work together to strengthen the range and type of supports offered to Scholars with disabilities and all students attending the University of Gondar. Still in its early stages, it focuses on accessibility measures that support student excellence and barrier-free learning.

Earlier this year, Scholars from the University of Gondar participated in a focus group about accessible education. They were asked to identify one thing that they wanted the university community to know about accessibility and inclusion. Their responses reflected a range of perspectives.

Scholar Perspectives on Inclusion and Accessibility

Several highlighted the fact that inclusion is not charity or a favour but a right.

“We want the campus community to know that inclusion and accessibility should not be a charity case but a right for all people with disabilities.”

 “When we are included in society and community initiatives it must be know that we are not a burden. Inclusion should be a right and not a handout.”

Participation of those with disabilities in accessibility efforts was identified as important.

“What is done in the name of inclusion and accessibility should be vetted and looked over by those with disabilities. We need to be a part of those discussions and put our mark on the work being done.”

A lack of knowledge about the potential people living with disabilities was identified as an area for improvement.

“When I first entered the University of Gondar a security guard who mans the front gate told me that I was not allowed to enter because he believed that I was not a student. So I want there to be an awareness and a sense of acknowledgement that people with disabilities could make it to the university level and can learn on the same level as those who are not disabled.”

“As there are a lot of people with disabilities in our university those who are not disabled need to know that we are half of society and we could lead our lives and work like anyone else.”

“When we include people with disabilities in many different groups it must be known that experience sharing happens both ways and that we have a lot to offer and contribute in many settings.”

Several Scholars spoke about an inclusive society, beyond the wall of the university and for everyone who faced barriers in life.

“Inclusion is a part of society, but it should be known that it is not just to accommodate people with disabilities, but all those who are disadvantaged should be included.”

“Inclusion should not only be seen in educational institutions but should be in community-based instances where all have to accept and include people with disabilities.”

About the Scholars Program

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is focused on developing Africa’s next generation of leaders. The program allows students whose talent and promise exceed their financial resources to complete their education. With a vision that education is a catalyst for social and economic change, the program focuses on developing leaders who are transformative, encouraging them to be active contributors in their communities. Read more.