Kent is delighted to announce Paul-Georg Ender, 23, as Student of the Year 2020, in addition to his winning the Mike Oliver Award for his outstanding efforts in improving accessibility throughout the University, both online and on campus.
Paul-Georg began studying Law in his native Germany, before taking an exchange year at Kent Law School where he took up his LLB, graduating this July with a First.
Paul-Georg has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to improving accessibility at the University. He has been instrumental in participating in existing work and also launching initiatives of his own.
On his familiar routes around the campus to lectures and meetings, Paul-Georg realised the problem of obstacles for those students and staff with visual impairments. Having to find a new route is time consuming, and not possible when within a time limit. Paul-Georg’s response was to discuss the issue with the University’s Estates team and look for a solution. This led to the implementation of a new email-alert service for staff and students, informing them of obstacles on routes and inaccessible facilities in advance and as they happen, with suggestions of best alternatives.
He also worked with the University’s School of Architecture and Planning to begin creation of a 3D tactile map to identify roads, buildings, stairs, and other areas of significance for those with visual impairment. This tactile map design, currently under construction, will form part of a PhD project within the School undertaken by George Rhodes.
Equally importantly, Paul-Georg also worked with the University in providing accessibility feedback in relation to the student’s online journey. This included evaluating elements such as the application process, selection of modules, downloading study files, accessing timetables, and more. With the OPERA Project (Opportunity, Productivity, Engagement, Reducing barriers, Achievement) at Kent, Paul-Georg advised on improving the student experience online and increasing the coverage of assistive technology such as screen readers.
Paul-Georg has also been a spokesperson for inclusivity and accessibility at conferences, most notably as speaker at the Kent Digital Accessibility conferences in 2019 and 2020.
Paul-Georg’s next focus is a Masters in Law (LLM) by research at Kent Law School, starting in September, on digital accessibility regulation, with ambitions to improve the legal framework and enable disabled people to have equal access to information.
Paul-Georg said: ‘I feel honoured to receive the Mike Oliver Award for improving accessibility and the Student of the Year award from the University of Kent. It is great to be appreciated in such a way alongside so many other amazing nominees. This shows that our work matters. Sometimes it is hard to break down existing barriers to create a more open, accessible, and inclusive environment for students but, it can be achieved if all of us work together. It is good to have come so far. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to do to further help future students, so they do not have to go through the same difficulties that I struggled with. Thank you for everyone supporting me on this path and the path ahead.’
Ben Watson, Kent’s Accessible Information Adviser said: ‘Paul-Georg is an absolutely vital member of our team and has always given his time and expertise very willingly. He has an amazing amount of energy and passion for accessibility that is driven only by his desire to make things better for others. His own personal journey means that is very well placed to give advice to the University and this has meant that we have progressed far more quickly than we would have done without his help. We can’t thank Paul-Georg enough and look forward to continuing this journey with him next year.’