Definition of the target group(s)
Aid is mainly provided by two public bodies: the Walloon Agency for the Integration of Disabled People (AWIPH) and the Brussels Fund for the Social and Professional Integration of Disabled People, also known as PHARE (an acronym for ‘Personne Handicapée Autonomie Recherchée’ – ‘Disabled Person Autonomy Sought’).
These organisations may contribute to certain educational costs for disabled students over the age of 18 who wish to pursue studies at university or non-university higher level, e.g. specific equipment costs, travel costs, accommodation costs for those who have to stay away from home. They also offer educational guidance services. To benefit from such assistance, the results of a medical checkup must be included with the support application. Specific forms are provided for this purpose. Other documents may be requested depending on the nature of the application. The enrolment fee may be reimbursed in the event that the Study Allocation and Loan Service refuses any contribution. However, the grounds for this refusal must be specified.
In the private sector, there are numerous non-profit organisations (ASBLs) which may also provide support to disabled students. Certain controlling authorities have introduced an educational guidance service recognised by AWIPH: thus the Province of Hainaut has created a reception and educational guidance service for all students with specific needs who wish to undertake studies at the higher level (including social advancement education) in the educational provision that it organises (the Higher Provincial Educational Guidance Service or SAPEPS).
Several universities have also introduced specific assistance for disabled students. The type of assistance and access to it are matters for the universities to determine.
Certain measures are intended for groups defined on the basis of their educational situation: thus, higher education institutions are required to take measures in favour of so-called ‘first generation’ students, introduce schemes to help ensure their success and boost access for all to higher education.
Other measures must be aimed at socio-economically disadvantaged groups arriving in higher education, and courses to increase proficiency in French must be organised.
Financial measures, such as the reduction or waiver of enrolment fees granted to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, are described in the chapter on educational financing.
Specific support measures
AWIPH for the Walloon Region and PHARE for the Brussels-Capital Region may provide educational support to students in higher education. The support may consist of reformulating information that has not been properly understood: oral explanations, the repetition of information, scientific supervision for students suffering from sensory impairments in order to help them keep up. Young people with a visual impairment may obtain a Braille transcription of educational publications. These services provide assistance outside course times. Translation into sign language may also be provided in some cases.
These agencies may apply an hourly cost, up to a maximum amount per year of study, which they grant to educational support and supervision services. The list of recognised educational support centres is available via the website of AWIPH or PHARE.
The support provided by private bodies varies considerably from case to case. At university level, specific support is often arranged for disabled students. For example, such support may relate to access to premises, the use of adapted computer equipment, the adaptation of educational materials and assessment arrangements, psychological or educational support, etc.
A decree dated 18 July 2008 makes provision, with a view to ensuring the democratisation of higher education, for the compulsory introduction of a policy targeting socio-economically disadvantaged groups arriving in higher education, in order to meet their specific requirements. It also provides for the introduction of training to improve language skills. On 19 July 2010, a decree to make higher education free of charge and democratic stipulated among other things that if a student receiving a grant so requests, the university, institute of higher education or arts college must print out compulsory course material free of charge.
If higher education establishments autonomously define the measures taken in support of first-generation students and initiatives aimed at improving success rates, they must account for their actions in an annual activity report.