Obstacles and barriers for inclusive study circles
Sweden has an anti-discrimination law emphasizing inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities. In January 2015 this law was strengthened. Today, this anti-discrimination law not only applies to higher education but also to non-formal adult education. As a study association, we have to make sure that we do not only make the physical environment accessible to all. We also have to make the studies pedagogically accessible.
Purpose for governmental grants
In accordance with the state’s purpose for funding non-formal adult education, we also have “to contribute to making it possible for an increasingly diverse group of people to affect their own living situation and create engagement to participate in societal development.” Additionally, non-formal adult education should contribute to decreasing the educational gap and increasing the educational level in society.
Additional grants for accessibility from 2017
In 2017, an additional clause will be added to Folkbildningsrådet’s criteria for state funding for study associations and “folk high schools”. This clause suggests that 8 percent of state funds granted to study associations will be set aside as availability support for programs and activities for persons with disabilities. This funding will encourage study associations to adapt their activities and programs to the target group.
Studiefrämjandet’s policy of sustainable development
Studiefrämjandet, The Study Promotion Association, has a policy of sustainable development which emphasizes an inclusive non-formal adult education:
”Studiefrämjandet’s activities should encourage participants to affect their own living situation and take part in the development of society.
Studiefrämjandet is available to everyone. We work for diversity and against discrimination. We contribute to the development of a society that includes the principle of every human being’s equal worth.
We welcome and respect diversity in terms of gender, gender identity or gender expression, ethnic identity, religion or other belief, disabilities, sexual orientation and age. We adapt our activities so that different participants and assistants can participate on equal terms based on their own conditions.”
Studiefrämjandet´s strategic goals
In Studiefrämjandet’s strategic goals 2016-2021, there has been a setback in terms of striving to have an inclusive non-formal education. Individuals with disabilities are no longer a prioritized target group in the new strategic goals agenda, like it was in the previous strategic plan.
Studiefrämjandet´s checklists for accessibility
Studiefrämjandet also has a checklist online so that each of our local chapters easily can check if their premises are suitable for people with for example vision, hearing- or motion impairment.
Furthermore we have checklists online in order to arrange inclusive events, for example concerts and conferences.
Studiefrämjandet´s activities 2015
Despite policies and tools, study circles specifically aimed at the target group people with disabilities, are remarkably few. In 2015, we arranged 830 study circles with this target group, as little as 1,3 percent of the total amount of study circles. We had 5793 participants and conducted 29 624 studying hours nationwide. Our study circles including people with disabilities has moreover decreased from 36 759 to 29 624 study hours, that is a decrease of 19,4 percent.
There are several reasons that few of our local departments make special efforts to include persons with disabilities:
- Lack of sufficient knowledge.
The activities are time consuming and the organizers of the study circle have to be interested, motivated and knowledgeable in order to be ready to prioritize a demanding task. Primarily, the head of the local unit has to be interested and encourage the staff.
- Lack of sufficient grants.
The activities demand increased funding. The grant is, despite additional funding for this prioritized target group, comparatively low since in order to arrange inclusive study circles you need more staff.
- Lack of good relations with the local municipalities.
In order to secure additional funding on a local level for the activities and programs, you need good relations with the municipality.
- Lack of enough leaders.
When it for example comes to outdoor activities, the study circle usually needs two leaders in order to assist participants with disabilities. Some people are ready to be a study circle leader without a salary but most leaders prefers at least a symbolic sum of money in order to volunteer.
- Lack of accompanying parents or personal assistants.
In some cases, a participant with a disability depends on being accompanied by a parent or an assistant.
- Lack of target group member organization.
Some disability organizations are member organizations of study associations. This makes it easier for these study association to get in touch with the target group. Studiefrämjandet lacks such a member organization.
Studiefrämjandet nonetheless has great potential together with our member organizations to enable persons with disabilities to for example do outdoor activities instead of having to be indoors all day long. We also have a lot of music activities that could become significantly more available to persons with disabilities than it is today.