Everyone’s TAMK - accessibility plan 2022
Towards more accessible higher education
Promotion of equality is one of the key societal tasks of the Finnish higher education system. Many new openings of higher education policy are related to the fact that an increasing number of Finnish people complete higher education at some point of their life. Higher education enhances individuals’ situation in the national and international labour market, increases wellbeing and creates stability in various life situations. On the societal level, completion of a higher education degree is connected to economic and social development opportunities. However, there are still phenomena which may prevent application for higher education or make it difficult to progress in studies. These include, for example, the influence of family background, gender-based career choices, multi-generational level of education, belonging to different minorities and regional availability of higher education.
Changes require nationwide measures, which have been evaluated and described in the publication “Towards more accessible higher education and higher education institutions” (Publications of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, 2021:35). TAMK is committed to promoting accessibility in its education and teaching, research, development and innovation (RDI), partnerships and work community.
What is an accessible higher education institution like?
In an accessible higher education institution, higher education facilities, electronic systems, learning environments, teaching methods and attitudinal atmosphere enable participation and equality of students and staff members who have various personal characteristics and different life situations. Individual needs can mean, for example, needs related to health, age, language or cultural background. The different aspects of accessibility overlap and are interconnected.
- Physical accessibility only refers to facility solutions and electronic systems, although learning materials and teaching methods were also previously considered to relate to it.
- Psychological accessibility describes the attitudinal atmosphere of the higher education institution and experiences of equality and inclusion as well as attitude towards diversity.
- Social accessibility refers to official strategies and plans as well as various accessibility practices (including teaching methods and learning materials). (Lehto et al. 2019.)
Accessibility plan process
The Ministry of Education and Culture requires all Finnish higher education institutions to prepare an accessibility plan by the end of 2022. At TAMK, the accessibility plan was drawn up in close cooperation with various staff and student representatives. The accessibility plan presents the current situation, objectives and needed development measures for 2023–2024. Accessibility is discussed as a whole, with focus on accessibility in teaching and supervision, student admission and physical accessibility. The plan describes its connections to equality practices as well as planned development measures with timetables and information on persons in charge.
The plan was worked on from autumn 2021 in staff workshops, whole staff’s TAMK conference and team-specific discussions. Realisation of accessibility was assessed using a staff survey, to which we received 253 answers. In the responses to its 34 questions, accessibility of digital learning environments, students’ possibility to have support for planning their studies throughout their studies, possibility to have individual teaching arrangements and TAMK’s positive atmosphere in relation to accessibility were considered good practices. The areas to be developed included involvement of staff in facility design, booking practices of accessible rooms and related information, easy availability of guidelines on individual arrangements and organisation of accessible practical trainings in Finland and abroad.
The Students’ Union Tamko was represented in the process and it discussed the present-day accessibility practices and development needs in its bodies and groups. A broad-based working group had the main responsibility for drawing up the plan.
Accessibility is part of everyday choices and solutions. Development of accessibility is a continuous process and therefore implementation of the development targets is monitored and the accessibility plan is updated annually with necessary content changes.