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MedUni Vienna encourages the strategic implementation of diversity management

(Vienna, 3 Dec. 2010) People with disabilities or chronic diseases usually also have difficulties accessing educational institutions. The causes of this are manifold, which is why the “steering group on diversity management” has now been launched at MedUni Vienna with the objective of implementing the integration and equality of staff and students with disabilities or chronic diseases by providing barrier-free access and increasing the significance of diversity at MedUni Vienna.

According to a recent study, higher education constitutes a major protective factor for people with disabilities. The higher an individual’s educational attainment, the better is also their income and the lower is their risk of poverty. The study reveals furthermore that there is no difference between people with and without disabilities as regards the unemployment rate among graduates of a higher education programme. Nevertheless there is a significant difference in terms of qualifications between people with and without disabilities, with one of the reasons being that access is still made difficult for them. It is particularly in the field of universities, however, that great opportunities are waiting not only for people with disabilities but also for the universities themselves if they promote the potential of these staff members and students. This was shown in contributions to the symposium “Barrier-free universities – challenges & perspectives”, an initiative launched by MedUni Vienna in autumn 2009.

With the “steering group on diversity management”, which was set up in November 2010 by Vice Rector Univ. Prof. Dr. Karin Gutiérrez-Lobos, it is intended to concentrate on these challenges, which are prevailing at the Medical University of Vienna due to differing groups of people, activity allocations and tasks (medical, scientific, administrative), in order to further reduce discrimination, promote equality of opportunities and create a positive and creative work atmosphere in which it is possible to deal with each other and with differences constructively and cooperatively.

In cooperation with MedUni Vienna’s advisory board for disabled people, which comprises 25 members, it is intended, among other objectives, to further develop the information and counselling opportunities and take infrastructural measures involving those affected. In addition, relevant training programmes and seminars are held, which for example aim at enabling appropriate contact between doctors and patients as well as at enhancing the integration of handicapped people into the teaching staff.

“The medical studies themselves are sometimes not the main problem. The bottleneck is the specialisation training,” explains Univ. Prof. Dr. Veronika Fialka-Moser, chairwoman of MedUni Vienna’s advisory board for disabled people. “Here the required practical work represents an insurmountable obstacle in many cases. Specialist training is therefore usually only possible in the psychiatric field.“

However the tasks of diversity management include safeguarding barrier-free access not only for people with disabilities but also for women who often experience work discrimination due to a double burden caused by family and career. Work is therefore also being done in this field with the already existing staff department for gender mainstreaming to ensure equality and the promotion of women.
Here MedUni Vienna perceives these challenges as an opportunity for all people concerned to use the potential inherent in diversity.