Barrier-free communication is a very young and multifaceted research area. Against the background of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and within the paradigm of social inclusion and participation, it aims to explore models and procedures to ensure access to information and training for people with visual, hearing or temporary cognitive impairments. Barrier-free communication is a prerequisite to guarantee everyone universal accessibility to all environments. In line with the principle of inclusion, research in the field of barrier-free communication should only be carried out in collaboration with members of the target groups.
The School of Applied Linguistics of the ZHAW is working with the University of Geneva to create the foundation for a Swiss Research Centre for Barrier-free Communication. The main goal of the project is to investigate how access to higher education in Switzerland can be facilitated for students with impairments. The project aims to develop sustainable methods and processes to provide as much barrier-free or “low-barrier” access to information and learning materials as possible. Furthermore, the project explores how people with visual, hearing, or (temporary) cognitive impairments and speakers with little knowledge of the local language can be generally supported to communicate effectively, have barrier-free access to information and thus live safe and independent lives. This is done by evaluating and standardising relevant methods and training programmes in 10 Research Areas.
The project’s objectives can only be achieved through close collaboration with the target groups and their umbrella organisations, as well as with service providers. Against the background of Switzerland’s multilingualism, the project aims to promote bottom-up, inclusive cooperation between research and practice.
It is expected that the project will ultimately
- contribute to standardisation of methods for barrier-free access to courses and study programmes at Swiss higher education institutions;
- promote social and professional recognition of barrier-free communication methods and products;
- pave the way for long-term cooperation between research institutions, representatives of the target groups and practice partners across Europe;
- contribute to raising awareness of diversity in society, thus fostering values of equality and inclusion.