Who are we?
We in the Office for Accessibility are students of the University of Vienna who have encountered or are encountering various barriers in their studies and would like to help you overcome them.
Our experiences have contributed to our motivation to make your everyday study life easier and to fight against the (often) not fair university structures.
What do we do?
We support and advise neurodivergent, disabled, chronically and mentally ill students. We also organize networking meetings and events and campaign for more barrier-free study conditions. In addition, we mediate in contacts and possible problems with teachers and various offices at the university. We are happy to advise you on compensations for disadvantages and possibilities for barrier-free studies at the University of Vienna. We work closely with the Barrier-Free Team.
The Accessibility-Team ("Team Barrierefrei") is another possibility for you to create a university everyday life that works and is (more) pleasant for you. On their website you will find the possibility to sign up for a newsletter or help with the application for different examination methods: Link to website.
Disabled, chronically and mentally ill people make up at least 15% of society (WHO), so also at the University of Vienna (Student Social Survey 2019). However, this is often forgotten and we are treated as a small marginalized group, as is very noticeable now in the wake of the Corona pandemic.
How can you find us?
Department for Accessibility
AAKH, Spitalgasse 2, Courtyard 1
Our office is located in the courtyard 1 of the University Campus in the premises of the ÖH Uni Wien with the building number 1.10.
Click here for the campus map of the University of Vienna
The entrance door to the Counseling Center of the ÖH Universitätsvertretung Uni Wien is behind the Billa when you are standing in the courtyard 1 to the right of the passage to the courtyard two. Once you have gone through the entrance door, walk three to four meters straight ahead, then there is a glass door on the left side, through which you go. Then you go straight for about 8 meters (then you might bump into a changing table). There you turn right and go through our open office door (after 2 meters). Welcome!
International ME/CFS Day on May 12
Making visible what goes unnoticed: International ME/CFS Day brought Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome into the global spotlight for a day.
May 12 marked the international ME/CFS Day. This day aims to raise awareness about the challenging situation faced by those affected. Despite ME/CFS being classified by the WHO as a neurological disorder under G93.3 since 1969, the situation for those affected is extremely challenging: there is a lack of recognition, medical care, social security, and research funding. In Austria, there is not a single outpatient clinic or publicly funded point of contact to date. Social security is enormously challenging for the affected individuals due to a lack of expertise and frequent underestimation of the burden of the disease.
The Austrian ME/CFS Society organized the following event in 2023:
>> A protest action in the tradition of #MillionsMissing took place at Heldenplatz on May 12. Under the motto #unversorgtseit1969, referencing the recognition of the illness by the WHO since 1969, those affected and their families drew attention to the inadequate healthcare situation.
Collected shoes and messages represented those too ill to protest and advocate for their rights. Those who couldn't attend in person shared their pictures and messages on social media under #unversorgtSeit1969 and #MillionsMissing.
ME/CFS also affects students!
As the Department for Accessibility, we participated in the action!
Isolation, loss of routines, financial difficulties, media staging of the so-called "risk group" and derogatory comments, cancellation of treatment appointments, medication shortages, fear for oneself, friends and relatives, problems with e-learning, worries about grants, uncertainty....
There are currently many things that can worry us disabled and chronically ill students. So we would like to meet online regularly to spend some time with like-minded people and maybe share some supportive ideas.
We use Zoom as a video service.
You will be emailed the link to the video chat after you sign up. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include if you have needs for additional accessibility.
In the chat we treat each other respectfully and take care of confidentiality: what is told in the café stays there.
FAQ about studying with barriers
We have collected here some of the most important questions about studying with disabilities/impairments/illnesses.
What do I do if I have an illness, injury or other acute disability while studying?
The deciding factor is how severe and how long the impact on your studies is. In the case of illness, injury or disability that significantly affects studies for at least four weeks, it is possible to apply for a leave of absence from studies.
Important for this is a specialist's confirmation. This must state that there is an illness/injury/disability that makes it impossible to pursue studies for at least four weeks. An exact diagnosis does not have to be stated.
The application can then be submitted to the Admissions Office of the University of Vienna.
It should be noted that with the leave of absence some benefits of the formal status as a student are no longer granted.
What do I do if I have psychological problems?
Psychological problems and illnesses can be very stressful during studies. Sometimes studies have to be paused or alternative examination arrangements are necessary. Students with mental illnesses have the same rights as students with physical illnesses.
You can contact your teacher directly or the Team Barrierefrei of the University of Vienna, for example, to arrange longer deadlines.
There is also the possibility to get psychotherapy fully or partially financed by the health insurance.
A first point of contact can also be the psychological counseling for students.
Psychological student counseling
The psychological student counseling is a counseling center for students with psychological stress. A big advantage of this psychological counseling center is its proximity to the main university and the anonymous, free counseling even without health insurance.
You can turn to the psychological student counseling in psychological crises, mental illness, exam anxiety or if you have other problems in your studies. Individual consultations and group seminars are offered.
What do I do if I have test anxiety?
Exam nerves can be a considerable burden on your studies. In the case of test anxiety, a great deal of nervousness arises before or during an exam, which can also lead to panic attacks. This results in a massive impairment of performance or exams may not be taken at all. If you have exam anxiety, you can contact the psychological counseling center for students or the Team Barrierefrei.
Can I be exempted from tuition fees due to disability or illness?
Study-relevant disabilities or chronic illnesses can often complicate everyday study and, like a variety of other reasons, cause a course of study to exceed the standard period of study. In this case, tuition fees are usually due. However, there is the possibility to claim reasons so that no tuition fees have to be paid.
a) Disability pass with a degree of disability of more than 50%.
If a valid disability pass is available, then a waiver of tuition fees can be applied for at the Office of Admissions. This can be done permanently or for a limited period of two semesters.
If there is an impairment or illness of at least two months, a waiver of tuition fees can be applied for. For this purpose, a specialist medical report must be submitted to the Office of Admissions. The application for waiver can be made for a maximum of two semesters, after which a new application is possible.
The ÖH fee must be paid in any case. In addition to the waiver of tuition fees, there are other financial support services. You can find more information about the remission of tuition fees here.
When am I entitled to different examination methods?
Neurodivergent, disabled, chronically and mentally ill students have the right to a different examination method that is more suitable for them.
The examination method can only be changed if the nature of the disability/impairment/illness makes the originally prescribed method inapplicable and the new method ensures that the same content and performance are provided.
Several options exist for adjusting the testing modality:
- Instead of a written exam, an oral exam is possible.
- Instead of an oral exam, a written exam is possible the other way around.
- The examination time for written examinations can be extended.
- Oral exams can be accompanied by ÖGS interpreters for deaf students.
- Technical aids such as the PC can be used.
- Examinations can be held in a separate room.
- Field trips or presentations can also be replaced by written work.
This means that the content and performance requirements of the examination remain the same. Only the mode, i.e. the way the exam is conducted, changes. This is a compensation for the disadvantage caused by the impairment/disability/illness.
First, it must be proven that there is an impairment that affects studies for at least two months during the semester. Then, an alternate method of examination may be requested. In addition, a specialist medical report/attest or the form of the University of Vienna (link to the form, German) must be submitted. It is not a matter of disclosing one's own course of illness or diagnosis to the university. It is only necessary to state the specific functional impairment that affects the studies. This can be used to determine which area is affected (such as reading, speaking, concentrating, writing). A suitable alternative form of examination can then be found.
A conversation with the respective lecturer is a start, and the Barrier-Free Team of the University of Vienna can also help.
You can find more information about alternative examination methods in the information sheet of the University of Vienna: Link to alternative modes of assessment
If you are already in an exam situation but cannot finish it due to an impairment/disability/illness, it is possible to cancel the exam. The LV management must then be informed that the exam cannot be completed due to illness, panic attack, etc. The course administration can then decide whether the reason seems important to them. The exam will then not be counted and will not be assessed negatively.
Where can I get accessible learning materials?
If it is not possible for you to always be present in the lectures or to take (complete) notes, then there are possibilities and places that support you.
- Audio and video recordings of lectures can be made if the lecturer has been asked for permission beforehand. Powerful recording devices can be borrowed from the Accessibility Team.
- Transcripts can be exchanged with fellow students. Students with disabilities/impairments can also use the transcript exchange coordinated by the Accessibility Team.
- For visually impaired students, a workstation for the blind is available free of charge in the main library at the University of Vienna. There, learning materials can be scanned and converted into accessible documents. Printing in Braille is also possible.
Where do I turn if I notice barriers and obstacles at the university?
If you notice barriers that affect you or another person, the best thing to do is to send an email to our Accessibility Department (email@example.com). We collect these barriers and regularly bring them to the attention of the university and stay tuned so that these barriers can be removed.
Barriers can be structural (no elevator access, lots of stairs, poor lighting, no guidance system for the blind, narrow or crowded hallways, crowded disabled toilets), as well as more subtle: instructors who don't make course materials accessible, or don't offer alternative testing options. You can also report these barriers to us.
What do I do if a teacher discriminates on the basis of illness and/or disability?
Teachers can discriminate unknowingly or knowingly. In the case of unknowing discrimination, it is best to bring it to the attention of the teacher, either in person or by email if you do not want to make it public. You can also write to our accessibility department (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they will contact the teacher.
It is important to show solidarity, even if a situation may not directly affect you, get involved and show that you don't find the behavior okay either.
Teachers who knowingly discriminate should be reported to us or to the Team Barrierefrei of the University of Vienna.
Discriminatory behavior can be: making fun of language difficulties of any kind, refusing alternative examination options, not responding to the special needs of participants, not making teaching material accessible or adapting it to certain needs, etc.
Difference between Team Barrierefrei and the Accessibility Office
The Team Barrierefrei of the University of Vienna is the official contact point for neurodivergent, disabled, chronically and mentally ill students. It is assigned to the Student Service Point and is also located on its premises. They advise on all disability- or illness-specific matters and can also refer students to non-university contact points. In addition, they provide recommendations for alternative examination modalities to lecturers/institutes. Advice is provided in person, by telephone and by mail: Link to counselling
The Accessibility Office is also the contact point for all issues concerning accessibility and disabilities, whether personal or political. We see ourselves decidedly not only as an advisory office, but also as a political one. For us it is important not to talk about people with disabilities, but to decisively declare solidarity as people with and without disabilities. We see ourselves as critics of the University of Vienna and can take a clear position against the university if necessary. Furthermore, it is important for us to make accessibility an issue with lectures, workshops and events. There is a good contact between us and Team Barrierefrei and we like to refer to each other.
Of course, this is not a complete list. If you have further questions or other suggestions, please feel free to contact us.
List for queer, feminist & anti-racist therapy
Wir sind auch Wien, Email to: email@example.com
Eurokeys for accessible toilets and elevators
You can borrow Eurokeys from our Accessilibility Office. These are keys with which you can use accessible toilets and some elevators in the university. They are for people who are situationally impaired and need a key for a certain time.