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Campus visually impaired – an extraordinary European seminar

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From August 15th till August 19th, a special seminar took place in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, called “Campus visually impaired – Studying in Europe without borders”. It was the first seminar for blind and visually impaired students from all over Europe. We, four young visually impaired people from Germany, organized the seminar under the patronage of the German association of blind and visually impaired students and professionals (DVBS e.V.).

Our idea was it to create a seminar for students similar to the ICC, the “International Camp on Communication and Computers”. This camp is only for pupils and its aim is to promote their exchange with other blind and visually impaired youngsters from Europe. The ICC takes place every year in another European country.

So in April 2016, we started to organize our seminar for students. For our organization team it was the first time we organized a seminar and we were very excited how it would work and what the institutions for the visually impaired across Europe would say to such a seminar. We asked them to find some participants. In addition, we also searched for suitable speakers as well as for sponsors.

After more than two years of organization, finally, the seminar took place. On a nice Wednesday in August, 21 blind and visually impaired students from nine countries came to Frankfurt am Main. The participants were just as excited as the organization team was. We all really looked forward to the coming five days that we would spend together.

We had an interesting and great time. There were different speakers and diverse topics. For example Wolfgang Angermann, the president of the European Blind Union (EBU), was invited to tell us something about the EBU and its important political role for the blind and visually impaired in Europe. Also Anca David from Views International showed us the possibilities of different youth exchanges and projects provided by this Belgian organization. There were also some presentations and discussions about the latest innovations in assistive technologies and about the support for students with a visual impairment at the universities of the participating countries.

The most important topic of the seminar was a stay abroad. A speaker from the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) informed us about the regularities which exist for students with disabilities who want to go abroad. The speaker told us how to plan a stay abroad and what is needed to do so. Furthermore, we also discussed our personal experiences abroad, and showed those participants who might wish to attend a university in another country that this is possible even if you have a handicap.

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Other topics were the studying conditions and the freedom of movement in Europe. So we heard speeches about the Marrakesh Treaty, the mobility of disabled people in Europe and the labor market.

To have not only speeches and discussions, we had the chance to visit the city of Frankfurt. In an accessible guided tour we learned many things about the sights of the city. The last evening we spent in a traditional German pub to show our friends from abroad typical German food and drinks. The exchange between all participants and the networking was also an important element of the seminar.

At the end, all participants and the organization team were very happy with the outcome of our first European seminar for students with a visual impairment. The participants appreciated the content of the seminar very much and proposed to have such a conference every year or every two years. Maybe another “Campus visually impaired” will take place soon in another European country. Anyway, it is our hope and our goal that this seminar was not the last one of its kind.

Finally, we would like to thank our sponsors for the financial support we received: Without those contributions, we would not have been able to conduct the seminar.