University life can be very challenging. It is important that people with a disability get the support they need to study like anybody else. But some people with a disability can find it difficult to do things like access lecture theatres and study materials.
Universities are bound by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. It provides a framework to ensure students with disability are able to access education in the same way as other students. The act states that "a person with a disability has a right to study at any educational institution in the same way as any other student". Educators are advised to make reasonable adjustments in order to assist students with the completion of different tasks in their course.
Universities have recognised the difficulties some students face. Most have established disability services to help manage these challenges and make reasonable adjustments. They also try to promote diversity and prevent harassment and discrimination for all their students.
What assistance can be offered?
Many universities have a Disability Liaison Unit providing services to students experiencing academic disadvantage. The services can be tailored to individual circumstances. The services provided can differ between universities. Typical support services offered can include:
- Hearing Loops and Auslan interpreters
- Assistive technology
- Resting rooms
- Peer support programs
- Links to assistive library and technology staff
- Learning skills advisors
- Job access services.
Physical accessibility can be a problem for people with a disability at university who have limited mobility. Some of the support that can be offered includes:
- Accessible parking
- Accommodation on campus
- Equipment loans
- Accessible venues
- Priority allocation of tutorials
- Assistance with navigating the university campus.
People with sensory impairments can also have difficulties accessing information at university. Support for students can include:
- Reading materials in accessible formats such as electronic, large-print or Braille
- Note takers in class.
Flexibility can also be important for many students to help them study. Some of the allowances that can be organised by Disability Liaison Units include:
- Alternative exam conditions such as extra time, rest breaks, alternative venues and assistive technology
- Extra time to complete written assessment such as essays and assignments
- Special seating arrangements at lectures or tutorials
- Coordinating assistance in a placement setting.
Who is eligible for assistance?
In order to apply for assistance there are a few steps that disability services typically require. An up-to-date document detailing your disability and how this affects your ability to study will usually be required. It is usually completed by an independent professional such as a doctor or psychologist. The document must highlight the nature of the condition and its timeframe. It should also provide information on what adjustments are suitable. Some universities have a template to complete by a professional. This is usually found on the university's website. A student may have to submit more than one piece of documentation depending on their condition.
The second step is to contact the Disability Liaison Unit. They can arrange a meeting to discuss what assistance services you require. You should discuss reasonable adjustments to your course assessments and any other relevant details. The Disability Liaison Unit officer should try to ensure your university experience is an enjoyable and rewarding one.
Who to contact?
Contact the Disability Liaison Unit at your university for more information. It is usually a part of the Student Services Unit. Contact details for some of Victoria's largest universities can be found on these websites: