Higher Education Dialogue on Disability and Inclusion
Disability is a universal phenomenon; although, it manifests itself differently depending on region. The inability to see or to hear would have presumably occurred in all historical epochs and most likely have been seen as “abnormal” the world over, but different societies may have handled these impairments very differently. Learning disabilities, on the other hand, are—historically speaking—a more recent phenomenon. It was only with the introduction of formal, certifying education systems that a societal interest in scaling, measuring, and categorizing the speed and level of individual learning processes developed. Meanwhile, the ongoing processes of globalization will most likely continue to blur cultural and social differences.
Academic exchange between Hamburg and Isfahan
Since 2011, 2 project groups at Universität Hamburg and Isfahan University of Medical Sciences have been taking a closer look at this and other issues. The team at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences primarily focuses on the fields of medicine, rehabilitation, and medical education. The team at Universität Hamburg is based in the Faculty of Education, where students are trained for educational tasks related to disability, such as vision, hearing, learning, and speech impairments and cognitive and emotional difficulties.
The project groups began their academic exchange in 2011. In several lecture trips (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015) and during two 10-day study trips to Hamburg and Isfahan (2014, 2016), researchers were able to identify various scientific issues and develop ideas for cooperation on further developing training and support for doctoral and early career researchers. In 2013, the universities signed their first memorandum of understanding, which they extended in 2019.
First higher education dialogue with the Islamic world (2017-2020)
In 2017, a 3-year project on higher education dialogue with the Islamic world (funded by the German Academic Exchange Service [DAAD]) kicked off with the project Dialogues on Disability and Inclusion between Hamburg and Isfahan. The goal was to discuss key concepts such as disability, inclusion, accessibility, and universal design, among other things, in their respective social and cultural contexts; to share thoughts on methodological matters in disability research in the field of education, rehabilitation, and therapy; and to discuss related research projects. Another project goal was to strengthen cooperation between the universities and local institutions for the disabled. The third aspect of the groups’ dialogue focuses on intensifying internal discussion about disability and inclusion at both universities with the aim of developing accessibility projects already underway.
Second dialogue (2020-2022)
From 2020 to 2022, a second dialogue with the Islamic world will examine counseling in the field of disability and will see Universität Hamburg and Isfahan University of Medical Sciences working with the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW), Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences (in Iran), the University of Kufa (in the Arabic part of Iraq), and the University of Duhok (in the Kurdistan region of Iraq). The participants will jointly develop their universities’ extant social work and special needs degree programs with the aim of integrating professional counseling training; they will do this by engaging in intensive interdisciplinary discussions on current educational and psychological theories and concepts related to disability counseling and by carrying out comparative analyses of the practical and organizational models used to implement counseling infrastructures in the 3 countries.
Participants and sponsors
The following instructors, doctoral researchers, and students took part from the Faculty of Education: Prof. Dr. Sven Degenhardt, Prof. Dr. Joachim Schroeder, Dr. Frauke Meyer, Dr. Uta Wagner, Dr. Farid Moshref Dehkordi, Samah Abdelkader, Marie Geldermann, Christoph Henriksen, Tobias Hensel, Negin Shah Hosseini, Azin Madadi, Valentin Müller, Pauline Runge, Faezeh Samari, Nele Schell, and Torben Schulz.
The DAAD is the primary funding provider for these cooperation activities. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology and Ministry of Health and Medical Education, the regional offices of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF in Iran, and the German-Iranian group Gesellschaft Razi für Medizin und Psychotherapie provide financial, logistical, and moral support.