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Open letter concerning article questioning rights of persons with disabilities to obtain higher education

The HFHR has sent an open letter to Professor Piotr Nowak, PhD, the University of Białystok, who questioned in a press article the right of persons with mental disabilities and developmental disorders to obtain higher education.

The article of Dr Nowak entitled “Should mentally unstable people be admitted to tertiary educations institutions?” was published on the website of the Rzeczpospolita daily.

In the letter, the HFHR expressed its concern with the appeal for “restricted discrimination” against people with disabilities and noted that depriving such persons of the possibility to study was unacceptable.

“Given the number and diversity of mental disorders, it is unreasonable to perceive persons suffering from them as a homogeneous group, as it leads to simplifications and stereotypical perception of such persons”. Similarly, it is wrong to classify developmental disorders such as the Asperger syndrome as mental illnesses. The fact that you treat various types of a disability as one category and use expressions that stigmatise these persons (e.g. “mad”) is the fundamental problem of your reasoning”, reads the HFHR’s letter.

The HFHR pointed out that any attempts at excluding or isolating persons because of their disability cannot be reconciled with the values enshrined in the Polish Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which underlines the obligation to ensure full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the society. At the same time, the HFHR noted that the Convention lays down expressly the right of persons with disabilities to education, a part of which is an access to tertiary education.

“Students with disabilities should be guaranteed access to individualised support (in the form of, e.g., an individual study programme for outstanding students who, however, have problems with attending group classes). However, a necessary support should also be provided to lecturers and university staff so that their mutual contact be full of respect to the rights of persons with disabilities”, noted the HFHR in the open letter.


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