Upper secondary school pathways with compensation for the disadvantages of disability
Background and aims
Switzerland’s law governing equal rights for persons with disabilities (Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz, or BehiG, of 13 December 2002) provides that measures must be taken to ensure that a person with a disability enjoys equality. This “compensation for disadvantages” (Nachteilsausgleich) is designed to achieve equality between people with and without a disability and the integration of people with disabilities. Its purpose is to “eliminate or reduce restrictions resulting from disabilities” and it can be used in schools and vocational training and in the related admission and training or educational procedures. In concrete terms, this means that the conditions in which teaching or examinations take place can be adapted - for example, by granting additional time, separate rooms or disability-specific aids. This explicitly does not mean modifying the objectives of the course or waiving the need to obtain a certain mark or to pass in specific subjects. The education departments responsible for upper secondary education and vocational training in the various Swiss cantons are currently working on strategies to implement this provision. Initial enquiries suggest that the situation varies widely from one canton to another. Besides, not much is currently known about the state of implementation or the impact on the future vocational pathways of those concerned.
There is a fundamental issue about whether the measueres of compensation for disadvantages does indeed create fairer educational opportunities. The following questions are examined in two clusters:
I) The status quo in upper secondary education (including vocational schools): How many measures of compensation for disadvantages have been implemented at upper secondary level in recent years and what form did they take? In what vocational fields and for what diagnoses were these measures granted? How do local stakeholders assess the status of implementation?
II) The pathways of former beneficiaries of measures of compensation for disadvantages: How smooth was the transition to employment? How well are they coping with their jobs and how satisfied are they with their vocational situation? Have they received any further support or adjustment at the workplace? How do they evaluate the measures of compensation for disadvantages in retrospect?
To reflect these questions, the research project breaks down into two phases. The first step is to send an e-mail to all vocational and upper secondary schools in Switzerland (Step I). It is estimated that there are nearly 700 schools of this kind, and these will be asked to submit written answers about the current status of implementation and their assessment of the measures of compensation for disadvantages . The second step will be to ask the schools to put the team in touch with former beneficiaries of measures of compensation for disadvantages who completed their training in July 2014. Initial enquiries indicate that there are 900 people to consult about their current situation in the form of an online questionnaire (and where appropriate in a verbal exchange (Step II).
Great interest in the outcomes of the proposed project has already been expressed, during our initial enquiries, by some education departments with responsibility for upper secondary and vocational schools and also by public agencies responsible for disability insurance. The study is designed to show how those directly concerned would assess the measures of compensation for disadvantages in retrospect. These young adults will be 19 to 21 years old when surveyed and will in all likelihood be working in their trained occupations. The aim is to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficacy of the measures of compensation for disadvantages from their perspective. The findings will also serve to generate proposals for optimising the implementation of measures of compensation for disadvantages and to describe examples of best practice.