The University’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022-2024 was launched by the Provost on the International Day of People with Disability, 3 December 2021 and is available at:
- Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022-2024 (PDF 463.8KB)
- Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022-2024 (Word 1.5MB)
People with disability are part of our University community as students, staff, residents, visitors and through our activities in learning and teaching, research, and community engagement. The plan for inclusion identifies targeted actions in five priority areas:
- Learning and teaching
- Digital and online environment
- Leadership and capability building
- Inclusive campus.
The Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022-2024 has been developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders across the University, including academic and professional staff and representatives of students with disability. Creating diverse, inclusive, and accessible educational experiences and environments to which people with disability feel a sense of belonging and connection is the responsibility of all members of the University community.
Some of our students and staff with disability have shared their experiences at the University.
Alexis Wildsmith is an Accessibility Adviser in the Student Academic Success team at the University, and said her professional career mirrored that of her student journey.
While studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science, Alexis was supported by a Learning Access Plan (LAP). After beginning her career in disability support, Alexis returned to the University, initially to take up an administration position with the Accessibility Services team.
“So I have sat on both sides of the desk now,” Alexis said.
“I love my job and feel so privileged to be in this position because I know that we do make a real difference.
It’s really rewarding seeing students go through their time here and knowing that they are receiving that same support as I was provided with. I would absolutely not have been able to complete my degree without the adjustments that were in my Learning Access Plan.
Alexis said there were a variety of “reasonable adjustments” her team could apply to a particular student’s LAP to help them achieve their academic goals, including extra time for assignments, transcription services, mobility accessibility, and mentoring.
“Basically, we do whatever we can to ensure that all of our students have equitable access to learning,” Alexis said.
“Attitudes to disability and ongoing health conditions have changed over the past few decades. For a long time, certain groups were not able to participate in types of education or training because of their disability. But we are moving more towards an era when we are embracing diversity and people.
“Everybody has something to contribute and to offer. So we are breaking down those barriers so that all people can access tertiary education if that’s what they decide to do.
“It’s incumbent upon us an as institution to ensure that we are inclusive and present everything in an accessible way. Everybody has an equal right to attend uni and access study.”
Alexis said she knew that it could be intimidating to access support services and reach out for help and lauded the introduction of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan as a sign of positive change within the University.
“This is a massive step,” she said.
“I think that the more we talk about it and open we are, the better outcomes we will have, and the more students will experience success.
“I just feel really lucky. It’s really challenging at times, but so rewarding.”
First-year Bachelor of Business student Courtney Doyle has both a cochlear implant and a hearing aid, and communicates with people by lip reading.
Courtney said that initially, her lecture videos did not contain the captions she required. But after speaking to her disability adviser, communication was strengthened with her lecturers and the caption service was consistently provided to her.
Courtney said that the types of valuable assistance she has received during her studies has included fortnightly meetings with her disability adviser, in-class notetakers, and constant check-ins from her teachers.
“This support has played a huge role in my success at the University as it allowed me to focus solely on the class and not have to be anxious about missing out on any important information and I can give my full attention to the class,” she said.
Having note-takers has been greatly advantageous for my education as I can use the notes to look back on anything I missed as lip reading, taking part in the class discussion, taking notes and learning at the same time proves to be impossible due to my disability.
“The support has been amazing and a big change compared to what I received in primary school, high school and college. I owe most of it all to Doug McGinn who is my disability adviser and understands what it is like to have a disability, and this shows how important it is to have a good support system.”
John Krishnan is a Psychology/Law student who came to study at the University from Singapore. John is vision-impaired, and has nothing but praise for the support he has received during his two years of study on the Sandy Bay campus.
“A lot of the staff here have been very helpful,” John said.
“The lecturers and tutors, as well as the disability staff, have been able to do a huge amount for me to help me get comfortable over here at the University.
“The first important thing they helped me with was mobility – how to get to lecture and tutorial venues, libraries and other important places on campus.
“So that was something that we started with. Then we moved onto lecture materials, unit outlines and slides, as well as textbooks which have to be provided to me in electronic format.
“So I think that the materials-based information was the most important thing. Because without these it would be more or less impossible for me to follow along in lessons.”
John said that note-taking was another invaluable support service that the University provided, and was particularly important when lecture material involved pictures, images or figures that were then converted for him into textual form.
And it is not just the University’s official disability support services that John has benefited from during his time at the University. He said that teaching staff, as well as his fellow students, had provided a caring and inclusive atmosphere.
“It has been very good actually, I have never experienced any negative impacts,” John said.
If I require extra time for assignments, lecturers are very open to time extensions or other avenues through which assessment tasks can be completed.
And the students have been very understanding when I explain to them my disability and how it affects me.
“In group assignments, if we are doing a poster, for instance, I may not be able to help with the visual design, but I can work on the information within the poster.
“I have had very good experiences with both academic staff, and with students.”
John, who resides at Jane Franklin Hall, said that despite COVID meaning that he had been unable to return home since starting his studies, he had loved his University of Tasmania journey thus far.
“It’s been fun and interesting over here, because it’s a new experience from Singapore,” John said.
“I would have to say that with Disability Support Services – and help from students and staff - I’m not sure I would have done as well as I have.
“It has been excellent over here.”
Lauren Burn is studying Agricultural Science at the University, with the ultimate aim of teaching the discipline in secondary schools after she graduates.
This is Lauren’s second time at university, this time made all the more challenging because she requires the use of a wheelchair.
“I thought his is what I want to do. I want to have a second crack at uni… but I didn’t know how uni would work with a chair,” Lauren said.
“I emailed the general address and told them my general situation. I was put onto Doug, and then had a meeting with him before I applied. He was very approachable, which was great, because at that stage I was concerned that this might all be too much for me.
But after speaking to Doug, I realised that it could be possible. He went over everything and told me how they would support me.
After establishing a Learning Access Plan with Disability Support Services, Lauren commenced her studies last year, when most of her coursework migrated online due to COVID.
In 2021, with the return to campus, Lauren has most appreciated the flexible attitude her lecturers have taken to her attendance and to assignments.
“Sometimes I have to say ‘Sorry, but me coming in today is not going to work’, and I know that I am not going to be penalised for it,” Lauren said.
“It’s been comforting to know Disability Support Services are there. A couple of times I have emailed them late at night, and not expecting an answer until the next day during work hours. But I will get a response straight away!
“Knowing there are people you can reach out to has been a big positive for me.”