The National Union of Students (NUS), the Australian Medical Students Association and the Australian Law Students Association have jointly released a joint statement and research report on disability and higher education in Australia.
The report calls for significant reforms of disability laws and “across the higher education sector” to provide equal access to education and target persons with disabilities. By delving into the inadequate understanding, training and support services around disability in higher education, it provides a stunning picture of the lived experience of many with disabilities.
It warns that higher education institutions that do not take such action may be in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The ANU Disabilities Student Association (DSA), along with 34 other organizations or individuals, has signed this report. DSA ‘strongly agrees'[s] With suggested recommendations and impulses[s] ANU and other Australian higher education institutions are committed to their implementation. “
An ANU spokesperson confirmed that the university is aware of the report. They added that, in conjunction with the reports of students, staff and the Royal Commission on Disability, ANU will use the reports “to determine what is best for the university and our community.”
The authors offer 15 recommendations grouped into three major issues facing students and academics with disabilities.
The first section focuses on how disability discrimination (the systematic exclusion of persons with disabilities) in higher education is pervasive and how it operates through prejudice and unequal provision of services. I guess. Here, the report encourages stakeholder organizations (including universities) to recommend legislative changes to governments and further action from various other bodies such as People With Disability Australia and the National Center for Student Equity in Higher Education. We are urging you to support our legal proposals.
Second, it explains how in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to have targeted support for the individual needs of students with disabilities. A “one-size-fits-all approach” replaces specific learning facilities and support resources, exacerbating the lack of equitable “universal design for learning” implementation.
Maddi McCarthy (She/She), ANUSA Disabilities Officer, said, “ANU’s reluctance to provide and maintain online tutorials makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for students with disabilities to attend college. It’s getting harder,” he stressed. This is in line with the report’s recommendations for universities to become more flexible in learning post-pandemic rather than “back to normal”. In the second semester of 2022, 85% of courses were taught face-to-face only.
The final section of the report highlights the external barriers that exacerbate the lack of access to tertiary education. A person with a disability aged 15 to her 64 is more than twice as likely to experience financial stress as a non-disabled person. Rising financial pressures to attend college, combined with difficulties in maintaining jobs, accessing financial assistance and meeting rising medical costs, are increasing barriers to higher education.
The report also highlights that the issue of sexual violence disproportionately affects students with disabilities, especially LGBTQIA+ students. It urges universities to provide information on disability and to support an increase in accessible research and on-campus support services. The Disability Royal Commission reported similar findings.
The exclusion of students with disabilities from tertiary education also appears to be stratified within the sector, with “Group 8” universities (including ANU) “excluding students with disabilities at a higher rate than the sector average”. are doing”.
The report argues that underrepresentation of students and staff with disabilities in “elite” universities is particularly problematic.
The DSA confirmed that “some of the recommendations in this report reflect the campaigns and battles that the DSA has waged on campus over the past several years.”
Both physically and digitally, McCarthy emphasized that “ANU has historically been completely inaccessible in many ways.” She said she “had not necessarily personally experienced everything described in the report…” but knew “of the collective people who could relate to all parts of the report.” I was.
In the meantime, ANU assured that it would “continue to advance its Disability Action Plan (DAP), which has already addressed many aspects of the report.”
ANU’s Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities 2020-2024, submitted to the Australian Human Rights Commission, notes that ‘ANU has been a largely devolved institution for many years and is therefore being challenged by historic developments’. I admit it. Therefore, “the framework for consistent action and policy implementation related to people with disabilities and their response is not always in place.” It has decided to act as a “roadmap” to ensure an attractive and accessible physical and digital environment for both work and employment.
The specific recommendations contained in the report, such as disability sensitivity training for staff members, are some of DSA’s largest projects.
“There’s nothing surprising about the report,” McCarthy said. It remains to be seen whether ANU and the higher education sector more broadly will change their models of inclusion and accessibility to student needs.
If you find the content of this article painful, use the following resources:
Safety and Health of ANU Students
(02) 6125 2211
ANU Disability Student Association
ANU BIPOC Division
ANU Department of Indigenous Peoples
(02) 6125 2442
1800 737 732
ANU Women’s Division
ANU Queer* Department
ANU Relational units that respect each other
Canberra Rape Crisis Center, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525