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Chasing your academic goals? Here’s how you can access support to do it

Content handsome young disabled student with headphones on neck siting in wheelchair and looking at camera in modern library or bookstore

Recently, our request of the week was a law student seeking support to attend uni. If you are looking to further your education, there are lots of ways that your uni, TAFE or education provider can support you. We take a look at what support is out there, and how to find it.

If you are starting out on your further education journey, it can be difficult to know where to begin to get the support you need. The good news is, the first stop is with your education provider itself, which is funded by the government to provide students with disabilities with support to undertake their studies.

Support from the Australian Government

The Disability Support Program provides funding to eligible higher education providers to undertake activities that assist in removing barriers to access for students with disability. That means you can contact your university or TAFE about the services they provide to support you to undertake studies.

The program also funds The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education & Training (ADCET) – an organisation which provides information, advice and resources to disability practitioners, academics, teachers – as well as students – on inclusive practices within the post-secondary education sector.

You can use this site to find information and useful links for:

  • planning for post-secondary education and understanding the entry pathways to further studies
  • knowing your rights and finding appropriate supports
  • managing your studies and planning for graduate employment

What is a disability liaison officer?

Often, the first step is to locate the Disability Liasion Officer (DLO) within your university, TAFE or Vocational Training organisation. These officers are responsible for working with students to gain an understanding of how their disability may impact their ability to meet their academic potential.

As reported here by the NDIA, according to Geelong’s Gordon TAFE Disability Liaison Officer, Michelle Jepsen, the DLO will sit down and work out a Learning Access Plan, which includes reasonable adjustments teachers can make to be inclusive of all students in the classroom.  Despite this, Jespen revealed that many people with a disability who are attending TAFE decide not to register. She urges students to do so, as “The more knowledge the TAFE has about a student’s learning needs, the more help it can provide.”

Universities operate in a similar way, with most offering DLOs (or Disability Services Officers, as they are known at Sydney Uni) who have expertise in a variety of backgrounds including health sciences, psychology, teaching, occupational and rehabilitation therapy. Like TAFE, DLOs liaise with your faculty or school about how to provide students with reasonable adjustments and support. 

What might be considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’?

According to Jespen, an example of reasonable adjustments can include a requirement for instructions to be simplified or broken down into steps to make work easier to comprehend. A DLO can also discuss with teachers strategies they can adopt to cater for the student’s particular learning style.

The ADCET website further outlines a list of possible ‘reasonable adjustments’ which, by no means exhaustive, can provide a basis for which to begin discussions with your DLO. These include:

  • Assignment extensions
  • Attendance at lectures and tutorials
  • Carer may accompany student to lectures and tutorials
  • Requirements for class presentations e.g. alternative assessment in lieu of presentations
  • Access to relevant and appropriate equipment e.g. Dictaphone, Easy Listener, mobility scooter, ergonomic furniture, microphone for lecturer
  • Consideration for group work requirements
  • Auslan interpreter
  • Materials provided in alternative format
  • Use of a research/participation assistant

Open Universities Australia

If you’re looking for other options, Open Universities Australia (OUA) offers over 140 different courses across many different disciplines and has 12 participating universities across Australia. Online learning offers flexibility in addition to accessibility, allowing you to select units across several universities and study to suit your own timetable.A range of academic adjustments is available for students with disability once you are enrolled in a course for a minimum of 13 weeks. Disability support available includes a range of alternative format study materials including braille, e-text, lecture transcripts and more.

Whether you’re well on your way to achieving your degree, or still selecting your field of study, you could use your NDIS funding to engage independent support workers in your area to support you to pursue your academic goals. Find out more here.

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