Towards more accessible universities and inclusive education – universities share experiences in Ethiopia

The development cooperation project between SYL and Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD) supports students with disabilities in three public universities in 2019-2022 aiming to ensure equal opportunities for students with disabilities to study at Ethiopian universities. Despite the global pandemic dragging on, the project continues, and, for instance, two experience-sharing visits were organized in autumn. Dilla, Debre Berhan, and Jimma Universities Management members, staff working in the disability service units, leaders of the association of students with disabilities, and ECDD staff participated in the visits. 

– Experience sharing visits are organized to help targeted universities learn from each other’s experiences and share challenges and opportunities available for students with different disabilities, says Yohannes Teklay, who coordinates the project in Ethiopia.


he participants visited different accessible buildings at Hawassa University as part of the experience sharing visit.


– EMPOWER Project through Experience Sharing is working hard to ease the challenges of students with different disabilities. For instance, Dilla University has a Special Needs Support Center directorate Director and offered job opportunities to 17 persons with disabilities after their graduation. We are convincing other universities to follow the example and do the same in their universities.

The two-day meeting was conducted in the universities of Hawassa and Dilla in October. In the meetings, participants discussed how to improve inclusiveness and visited different resource centers and accessibility modifications constructed by EMPOWER Project.   The targeted universities raised different questions, for example regarding budgeting, continuing sharing experiences from each other in the future, and working closely with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Also, as part of the meetings, a learning and sharing workshop was conducted. All targeted universities presented their working reports under the EMPOWER project enabling them to learn from each other. They also prepared another action commitment for the next year. The universities committed to building renovations, promoting the disability issues in community radio and television, and supporting sports for students with disabilities, to name a few. 

– EMPOWER Project is strongly working on bringing structural change in the universities to help them continue their support for students with different disabilities at any time even after the end of the project. We are showing them models and practices which give students with disabilities a chance to study without barriers, Teklay says. 


In the workshop, representatives of the universities made new commitments to improve accessibility and inclusivity.


In addition to experience sharing visits, the project includes, among other things, training for student organizations and staff, purchase of various aids, and the implementation of accessibility modifications. During the pandemic, it has also been possible to provide food aid and hygiene items for people with disabilities and to share information about the virus in a format accessible to various groups with disabilities.

Viola Luokkala
Member, SYL’s Development Cooperation Advisory Board

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