University of Gdańsk: The disabled Accomplishments

Review of Accomplishments Supporting the Disabled at the University of Gdansk

 

Beginning

The idea of equipping the university with devices which would enable the blind to use computers and the Internet network dates back to spring 1995 and is connected with computerization of the UG Central Library, and more exactly with dr Jurand Czerminski's attending the conference European Library Automation Group (ELAG) in Trondheim (Norway).

Establishing first contacts with blind users of computer equipment (Krystyna Kossowska MA and Lucyna Kremer MA) we owe to the late Jerzy Kłuskiewicz, the former Head Computer Group of the City Council of Gdansk.

First Purchase and the Computer Lab Initiation

To purchase first specialist software MEN (Department of Education and Science) funds were used, allocated for service of ELAG'97 conference in the year 1997 (HAL-5 screen reading software for DOS platform and Lunar 95 software, screen magnifier for visually impaired individuals). In the same year, thanks to KBN (COMMITTEE for Research Projects) Apollo II, a fourlingual speech synthesizer, was bought.

The series of long-term actions aiming at adapting the university's technical infrastructure to support individuals with disabilities (with special consideration for blind students) was started by Jurand Czermiński in September 1997. The following factors were taken into considering while choosing the faculty at which the pilotage project should be initiated:

  1. Interest in a particular kind of studies among individuals with disabilities
  2. Availability of range of rooms suitable for adaptation
  3. Friendly attitude of the Faculty authorities

After a careful analysis, the Faculty of Languages and History was chosen. Promoting the idea to the authorities of the Faculty was undertaken by prof. dr hab. Jozef Bachorz. Dean of the Faculty, prof. dr hab. Jan Iluk pointed to the possibility of adapting two rooms at the ground floor of the building (rooms 07 and 08). Adaptive work was divided into two phases. Within the confines of the first phase the complete cleaning of the neglected rooms and the removal of all installations, walls, underslung ceiling, and floor were planned. The second phase included installing new electrical and heating systems, plastering both rooms, installing lighting and an alarm system, making and installing a steel door with "Gerda" locks, placing a computer network, placing a new floor covering, buying furnitures, computers and a network printer.

 

 

The work could be continued thanks to combined funds of the Foundation for Development of the University of Gdansk, Administrative Manager of the Languages and History Faculty at the University of Gdansk, and UG Rector's Reserves

Computer Lab, Information Service, Declaration of Intent, TESTLAB

In January 1998, after only four months from the beginning of the work, the Faculty had a unique complex of two adjacent rooms (rooms no. 07 and 08), cleaned of old installations and wall linings. That work was done entirely by volunteers (Jurand Czerminski, Adam Krezel, Janusz Mlodzianowski, Rafal Polonski and Marcin Sochacki). The larger room, after finishing the redecoration and equipping with computer devices, was meant to be a computer lab for all students at the Faculty. The adjoining, smaller room was chosen for the installation of expensive specialist equipment for the blind. The Faculty's own funds were used to purchase computers for sighted students, system software and MS Office package, and a laser printer was bought from reserves of Pro-Rector for Scientific Projects, Prof. dr hab. Andrzej Ceynowa.

In March 1998, at an annual ELAG conference in the Hague, dr Czerminski participated in workshop entitled User Services for Handicapped and established personal contact with Richard Tucker, the coordinator for TESTLAB European project.

In summer 1998, a link was placed on the UG main WebPage, leading to a system of electronic documents presenting the university's accomplishments supporting individuals with disabilities. By presenting those documents on the Internet, the University of Gdansk became the second university in Poland, after the University of Warsaw, which had published its agenda of introducing facilities for disabled persons.

At the beginning of September, dr Jurand Czerminski, the leader of initiating group, was invited to Brussels by the management of TESTLAB European project to report on work carried out.

On 21 September 1998, at 12 o'clock, UG Prorector for Scientific Projects, dr hab. Andrzej Ceynowa, UG professor and Dean of the Languages and History Faculty of the UG dr hab. Jan Iluk UG professor, in presence of invited guests, opened the Faculty's Computer Lab.

On 22 September 1998, Pro-rector for Scientific Projects dr hab. Andrzej Ceynowa, UG professor, signed a Letter of Intent, declaring that the University of Gdansk is ready to participate in European project aimed at facilitating the visually handicapped persons access to the library and network services.

The picture presents an original text of the Declaration of Intent, written in the English language, on a company paper of the University of Gdansk.

Declaration of Intent in HTML format

On 28 September 1998, dr Jurand Czerminski spoke at a seminar of TESTLAB Project in Brussels. Dr Czerminski reported on introducing facilities for individuals with disabilities at the University of Gdansk and gave the coordinator for TESTLAB Project above-mentioned Pro-rector's Declaration of Intent. The next day dr Czerminski visited acoustic laboratories of TCTS, a group of speech synthezis at Faculte Polytechnique in Mons, managed by Thierry Dutoit, where, within the confines of MBROLA Project, a system of speech synthezis awarded in 1996 had been carried out.

Conferences and Further Equipment in the Computer Lab

In June 1999 at an international and enviromental conference at the Jagiellonian University entitled Users of Electronic Information, dr Czerminski delivered a paper The Blind and Short-Sighted Users of Autonomous and Networked Information Systems, and in August the same year, at a conference Ten Years of Computerization for the Blind in Poland in Warsaw he gave a paper Pros and Cons of European Projects Supporting the Blind and the Visually Impaired.

In autumn 1999 the University of Gdansk received a subsidy from the State Fund for Rehabilitation of the Disabled for purchasing braille system. In the same year the computer lab was equipped with a totally functional work station for reading and printing in braille, consisting of a braille display, an Index Everest braille embosser and Jaws, screen reading software for the Windows operating system. Within the confines of the same project the University of Gdansk bought, thanks to KBN funds, six speech synthesizers, Apollo II, a professional UNIX server, and installed in corridor at the Faculty six sign access-terminals for the server. Dr Janusz Mlodzianowski is working out an equipment board for an ISA expansion card, which would make possible converting an old PC into a Linux terminal operating two national languages (Polish and Russian) in three character coding standards, with a unique ability to use a floppy disk in Linux (software created in cooperation with Marcin Sochacki), allowing further extension, which would make possible the use of Unicode and Apollo II speech synthesizers.

Conference Light in Darkness, appointing Rector's Committee for the Project University without Barriers, and the Rector's Plenipotentiary for Persons with Disabilities

In March 2000 the Committee organized during the annual university holidays AKADEMIA 2000 a country-wide conference Light in Darkness. The Blind at University.

In summer 2000 the Rector's Committee for the Project University Without Barriers was appointed. The Rector appointed prof. dr hab. Joanna Rutkowiak, from the Institute of Pedagogics, Chairwoman of the Committee. On 27 September 2000 the Chairwoman of the Committee requested the Rector of the University of Gdansk to make amendments to the University Charter and to regulations specifying enrolment procedures.

In autumn 2000 prof. dr hab. Marcin Pliński, Rector of the University of Gdansk entrusted dr Anna Kobylanska from the Institute of Special Education with the function of Plenipotentiary for Persons with Disabilities. After consultations with lawyers of the Provincial Employment Agency and the State Fund for Rehabilitation of the Disabled, the Committee worked out amendments to the University Charter and to study regulations, adopted by the Senate of the University in November 2000

Conferences, Publications, Presentations, Virtual Library of Polish Literature

In January 2001 prof. dr hab. Joanna Rutkowiak and dr Anna Kobylanska participated in a seminar organized by the University of Warsaw, entitled Accessibility of Higher Education for Persons with Disabilities - Warsaw University Model.

 

In March 2001, during annual university holidays Akademia 2001, the Committee organized a debating forum entitled The Disabled at the University of Gdansk. University without Barriers. During the forum mgr Rafal Charlampowicz publicly demonstrated the blind's ability to use the Internet network.

 

In the spring 2001 dr Anna Kobylanska arranged fund-raising for purchasing an insulin infusion pump needed for a sick student (the campaign succeeded in December 2001).

The Central Library of the University of Gdansk added to bibliographic descriptions of its on-line catalogue links to next texts in Virtual Library of Polish Literature, created, under the auspices of UNESCO, at the Institute of Polish Philology by dr Marek Adamiec, enabling the blind to listen, via a speech synthesizer, over 100 masterpieces of Polish Literature, from the Middle Ages to the .XXth century.

Prof.dr hab. Joanna Rutkowiak presented a proposal of the Committee members' systematic publications in university press on persons with disabilities. In June 2001 Wojciech Flisikowski, the Central Library's representative in the Committee published in the university monthly Vivat Academia an article entitled Library without Barriers. Jurand Czerminski, at an international conference in Tesaloniki arranged by Accelerate European Project, delivered a paper on methodology of pasting fulltext electronic resources into Polish on-line catalogues in the context of making them accessible for the blind. In November Anna Kobylanska participated in a Polish-German seminar on occupational rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities. In January issue (2002) of the university monthly Vivat Academia three articles devoted to the disabled appeared, prepared by the Committee members (dr J. Grodzicki, dr P. Kuropatwinski (translation from Oxford Today), mgr R. Opora and dr J. Czerminski).

Recent Accomplishments in Providing Greater Access to the University for Individuals with Disabilities

On 27 March 2002 the Chairwoman of the Committee requested the Administrative Manager of the University of Gdansk, dr Andrzej Friedrich to initiate actions resulting in equipping the Institute of Pedagogics with a wheelchair lift. The project is superbly supervised by mgr Elzbieta Gorlikowska, Administrative Assistant Manager for Technical Affairs, at the same time a member of the Committee for Project University without Barriers.

Under the agreement with the City Council of Gdansk, in December 2002 the University of Gdansk created a new work stand and employed its blind graduate mgr Rafal Charlampowicz in a position of administrator of a computer braille system. Thus institutionalization of disability services initiated at the University of Gdansk left the stage of planning and entered the stage of execution.

The wheelchair lift mentioned above was installed in the Institute of Pedagogics before the end of the year 2002.

Plenipotentiary Fund, III Forum, First Braille Book in the Central Library Catalogue, Disabled Students and Employees Specialist, New Devices

On 21 March 2003, during the university fair Akademia 2003, the Rector’s Committee for the Project University without Barriers organized the third debating forum regarding persons with disabilities, entitled About Help and Helping. A plenary paper Helping others: Mission or Skill? was delivered by dr Krystyna Rzedzicka. The Forum was accompanied by performances given by Wybrzezak Theatre.

On 24 April 2003, the Senate of Gdansk University adopted a financial plan for the year 2003 which, for the first time, included a permanent subsidy of 8000 zlotys for the activity of Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Persons with Disabilities.

In June 2003, a graduate of the UG Faculty of Law and Administration, mgr Katarzyna Heba, handed over to the UG Central Library a braille copy of a book by Maksymilian Pazdan Prawo prywatne międzynarodowe. The UG Central Library in cooperation with Rafal Charlampowicz made this gift the first catalogued braille text in the history of Polish academic libraries. The book was divided into five separate parts. Each part was described in braille (for the blind) and print (for the librarians) and catalogued. Perfectly configured VTLS system allows searching for this record via „Keyword” search and setting search filters on „book-braille”. In the middle of the year 2005 it is still the only entry of this kind in Polish academic on-line catalogues.

In October 2003 the fund of Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Persons with Disabilities was used to purchase three packages of PC-Ratownik – a hardware solution protecting desktop computers from uncontrolled virus reception from the Internet. The devices were installed on computers used by blind students and the university employees.

On 14 November 2003, thanks to efforts made by dr Jacek Tarasiewicz, UG Prorector for Students Matters, mgr Szymon Formela was employeed in a position of Disabled Students and Employees Specialist.

Within the confines of the same project first elements for future system for preparation of tactile teaching materials for the blind were purchased:

  1. Zy-Fuse Heater for swell paper
    • swell paper (3 reams of 200 sheets)
      • Corel Draw 11 software.

 

IV Forum, Internet Publication of Dr Jurand Czerminski’s Book, New Computer, Soiree My Pole

On 19 March 2004, during the university fair Akademia 2004, the Rector’s Committee for the Project University without Barriers organized an annual, IV debating forum regarding persons with disabilities, with the general title University as a Place of Development. A paper stating the university’s programme Overcoming Difficulties as a Dimension of Cultural development was delivered by dr Jolanta Dyrda. Other events at the forum were round-table talks and open dialogues Academic Teachers and Their Students about Their Mutual Work for Development.

On 28 May 2004, dr Jurand Czerminski published on the Internet his book Cyfrowe srodowisko wspolczesnej biblioteki. Dr Jurand Czerminski got his publisher’s permission for this electronic publication accessible for the blind and visually impaired. The book is available both: via a link in the Central Library on-line catalogue and directly from a server via URL: http://panda.bg.univ.gda.pl/~jurand/cyfrowe_srodowisko/.

On 5 October 2004 the fund of Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Persons with Disabilities was used to purchase a computer being another element of a tactile graphics preparation system.

On 6 December 2004, within the confines of International Day for Disabled Persons, the Rector's Committee for the Project University without Barriers in cooperation with Academic Centre of Culture organized at the Faculty of Law and Administration a film, music and poetry soiree My Pole. During the soiree Joanna Szczepkowska read poetry, a jury chaired by prof. dr hab. Krystyna Turo announced their verdict in a poetry competition My Pole and Janek Mela’s mother – the boy was at that time reaching his second pole – told about her feelings and experiences. The celebration of International Day for Disabled Persons was accompanied by a magnificent concert given by Gdansk University Choir with a special participation of a solois Wiktor Szewkun and by a fil soiree.

Braille Collection, Ceremonial Meeting of Committee for the Project University without Barriers and Rector’s thanks to Prof. Rutkowiak for her Former Activity

In January 2005 the university magazine Gazeta Uniwersytecka - no. 9/1 (66/67), pages 18-19 – published a reportage on celebration of the International Day for Disabled Persons, entitled Every One Has His Pole.

On 5 February 2005, the Rector's Committee for the Project University without Barriers asked the UG Central Library for increasing its collection with another braille book: I ty mozesz byc matematykiem. Notacja matematyczna dla niewidomych. Poradnik. by M. Kalbarczyk and J. Omiecinski.

On 14 March 2005, the UG Central Library was presented by Foundation Unia Pomocy Niepełnosprawnym „Szansa” a gift of a book (in braille and in print) by Marek Kalbarczyk and Jan Omiecinski I ty mozesz byc matematykiem. Notacja matematyczna dla niewidomych. Poradnik.. The book was catalogued and made accessible via the Central Library on-line catalogue.

On 10 June 2005, because of the retirement of prof. dr hab. Joanna Rutkowiak, Chairwoman of Rector's Committee for Project University without Barriers, a ceremonial meeting of the Committee was called in the University Rector’s Office. The meeting was attended by UG Rector prof. dr hab. Andrzej Ceynowa who, in the name of the university, cordially thanked to prof. Rutkowiak for her long lasting, devoted work in a position of the Committee Chairwoman. During the same meeting, attended also by Rafal Charlampowicz, Szymon Formela and representatives of Academic Centre of Culture plans for the nearest future were discussed.

Last modified: 17.03.2014