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HELPI to support students with special needs

A colourful illustrative image of wooden figurines that mimic human figures. A blue figurine stands in the middle of a circle made of more than a dozen beige figurines. Each beige figurine is connected to the blue one with a white line running across the floor.

HELPI to support students with special needs

The AGH UST launched HELPI – a modern support system for people with special needs. The new platform is intuitive, easy to navigate, and user-friendly. It allows you to receive help quickly, facilitates contact with the Disability Support Office, and allows you to settle all matters and formalities without the need to physically go to the office.

HELPI gives our students the opportunity to submit applications online, arrange meetings with consultants, and receive psychological support in times of crisis. An assortment of available functionalities improves communication between students and the Disability Support Office, facilitates access to the help the unit offers, and automates processes related to other student services.

Putting the extensive experience of the Office’s employees to good use, three areas had been taken into account in designing the new system, in which significant changes have been introduced:

  • Submitting applications/settling formal affairs
    The entire mechanism related to submitting, reviewing, and approving applications has been simplified. Now, it is an easy-to-use e-Service. All it takes for students who want to participate in sports classes, book a spot in the hall of residence, apply for the help from a support assistant, or take part in any other event organised by the Office is to fill out an application on HELPI. The whole process is completely transparent – the user can check the status of their application at any time, they can also make changes to the document (for example, if it is incomplete or has mistakes), and they are notified of each such change electronically.
  • Contact with consultants
    A person who wants to receive help from the Office should contact the supervisor responsible for a given type of disability. HELPI makes this communication simpler. Students can make an appointment at a convenient time for them and the Office employee; they can also access the calendars of the consultants, which minimises the risk of double booking. The platform gives its users the possibility to choose the form of the meeting – depending on personal preferences, the consultation can take place online or on site in the Disability Support Office at the AGH UST.
  • Sessions with psychologists
    An important aspect of the Office’s activity is providing help to students in psychological crises. In such cases, time is of the essence, which is why the authors of the system made sure to equip it with solutions that will facilitate the use of psychological advice. Using HELPI, people can make on-site appointments with specialists from the Office. This will give them the comfort of safety in using this type of support, which is especially important considering that the experience of psychological crisis is unfortunately still marked by social stigma.

Students are often ashamed to ask for psychological consultations formally. Sometimes even sending a simple e-mail about it can be quite challenging. Through HELPI, they can reach out to the Disability Support Office and make an appointment without the risk of being stigmatised by their environment’, emphasises Agnieszka Szewczyk-Zakrzewska, a psychologist.

Importantly, the functionalities offered by HELPI are not only intended for people with a disability certificate. The system invites all people, even those whose health problems only temporarily affect their functioning at the AGH UST.

The e-service was built based on the principles of digital accessibility, according to the WCAG 2.1. standard. HELPI is operational on all devices, it is compatible with the most popular browsers and specialised software, such as apps used to read text from the screen. It is also integrated with the USOS platform, which allows it to automatically import current user data, saving the time that would otherwise be needed to type them manually.

The AGH UST meets students’ problems halfway and introduces modern solutions. The HELPI platform joined other innovative initiatives, such as the special tactile map or the navigation system (in development), which will allow people who are blind or visually impaired to move about the campus. Projects similar to HELPI are a next step in making the AGH UST more accessible, especially to people with special needs. The system itself is part of the university’s strategic goal of opening it to students, their professional growth, and the development of passions.

The system is available only in Polish at: