Aspiration

Within the timeframe of this Disability Action Plan 2013–18 the University will demonstrate pragmatic and academic leadership to ensure inclusive participation for people with disabilities to work and learn at the University.

The Disability Action Plan allows the University of Sydney to take a responsible and coordinated approach to ensure access and inclusion for all students, staff and visitors within all environments of the University.

The University will continue to attract and retain the most talented students and staff and enable the participation and contribution of people with disabilities in our community.

Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum

Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum is Vice-Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the first totally blind person to be appointed a full professorship in an Australian university. He is also the first totally blind person to be appointed as dean of a law school in Australia or New Zealand.

Our staff and students will be prepared to effectively engage with all members of a diverse Australian and global society.

As a leading education provider to the community, we are responsible for the provision of inclusive and accessible education as set out by a range of legislation, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005. However, our investment in this Disability Action Plan is not only based on meeting legislative requirements – we are bound and committed to providing a best practice accessible teaching, learning and working environment to our students, staff and visitors.

We acknowledge and welcome the challenge of providing a world-class environment where all talented people can work and study at the University of Sydney and realise their full potential, irrespective of any disability.

This approach will enhance our tradition as a leading education provider and as a leader within society.

We look to a future where people with disabilities are a part of the fabric of our organisation and we aim to move away from the complaints-based reporting process currently enshrined in legislation as regards access and equity issues to a forward-looking one that is more advisory and consultative.

Equitable access to education and employment is an important contributor to the overall wellbeing of our community, and enhancing that wellbeing has a positive impact on all of us. In recent years within Australia, disability has become a high-profile discussion point. It has been the centre of key political debate, particularly with the emergence of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. People with disabilities, their carers, family and friends are campaigning for improvements to basic rights, such as services and facilities that support people with disabilities and access to education.

It is well documented that disadvantage is experienced by people with disabilities in all aspects of life including lack of access to and participation in education and employment opportunities. 1

As a university, it is both our legislative and moral duty to ensure we work proactively to fulfil the purpose of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”.2

This Disability Action Plan seeks to eliminate discrimination and provides a blueprint for the University to achieve the following goals.

Culture

As an organisation we will become confident in understanding the nature and scope of disability. ‘Disability’ will be demystified and a part of our everyday business. The University’s culture will become progressive and forward thinking in the area of disability. We will affect change in all areas of access and participation at the University through embracing a proactive capacity-building approach and ensuring that people with disabilities and their representative organisations are consulted and involved in this process.

Staff and students will be prepared to effectively engage with all members of a diverse Australian and global society.

Learning environment

The University will be recognised as a leader in providing inclusive, accessible and innovative learning environments so that talented students with disabilities will be attracted to study at the University of Sydney. Access to participation to study at this University will improve for people with disabilities. The protection and promotion of the rights of students with disabilities will support our goals to increase the proportion of students with disabilities at the University. The engagement of students with disabilities will increase and opportunities for achieving their full potential will improve.

Teaching environment

The University will provide support to its teaching staff to enable them to deliver inclusive, accessible and innovative teaching methods. We will attract teaching and research staff from all backgrounds to work here and support them to deliver world-class inclusive teaching practices.

Employment

The University will provide a considerate, flexible and inclusive working environment for all staff. Staff supporting staff with disabilities will be knowledgeable and well resourced to support the participation and career development of staff with disabilities at the University. The protection and promotion of the rights of staff with disabilities will support our goals to increase the proportion of staff with disabilities.

Communication, digital and physical environments

The University will address access issues in its communication, digital and physical environments, to improve access and participation in the life of the University for all students, staff and visitors.

Demographics

People with disabilities make up a significant proportion of our community. Disability is a part of the human experience. According to the World Report on Disability “almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life, and those who survive to old age will experience increasing difficulties in functioning.” 3

According to the World Health Organization:

  • “Over a billion people, or about 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability.
  • Between 110 million and 190 million people have significant difficulties in functioning.
  • Rates of disability are increasing due to population ageing and increases in chronic health conditions, among other causes.
  • Persons with disabilities on average as a group experience worse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, such as less education, worse health outcomes, less employment, and higher poverty rates.”4

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers 2009, in Australia 18.5 percent or more than four million people reported as having a disability.5

In Australia:

  • 15 percent of Australians of working age (15-64 years of age) have a disability6
  • 54 percent of people with a disability are in a job or looking for one, and 83 percent of people with no disability are in a job or looking for one7
  • young Australians with a disability (15-29 years of age) are significantly less likely than their non-disabled peers to complete Year 12 or equivalent8
  • the majority of disabilities (approximately 88 percent) are not visible9
  • one in five Australians will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.10

In 2011 two percent of staff at the University identified as having a disability and 0.2 percent of staff required a work-related adjustment to support them in the workplace.

In 2012 46,944 students enrolled at the University. During enrolment in the same year 1831 students identified through the enrolment process as having a disability. In 2012 a total of 1645 students were registered with disability services.

It is likely that the number of staff and students with disabilities at the University is under-represented in our statistics. This may be due to the varied nature of disability, people’s openness to discuss disability and the implications around disclosure, and in addition some people may not require assistance to study or work.

It is also acknowledged that the current mechanisms for capturing data on staff and students with disabilities are limited, for example staff disability statistics are primarily obtained at the commencement of employment. It is intended through this Disability Action Plan to improve the capture of data.

Evidently people with disabilities make up a significant proportion of the population, and the University is committed to engaging with them.
The Disability Action Plan seeks to improve access to all areas and participation in the life of the University and attract and retain talented and skilled people with disabilities to work and study here.


1. Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney (2011). Left behind: Monitoring the social inclusion of young Australians with self-reported long term health conditions, impairments or disabilities 2001–2009 (2011). Available from sydney.edu.au/health-sciences/cdrp/publications
2. United Nations (2008). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Available from www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=150=
3. World Health Organization (2011). World report on disability. Page 3. Geneva, Switzerland. Available from www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/en/index.html
4. World Health Organization (2012). Fact sheet No. 352. Geneva, Switzerland. Available from www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs352/en/index.html
5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009). Disability, Ageing and Carers 2009. Available from www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4430.02009?OpenDocument
6. Australian Network on Disability (2013). Disability Statistics. Available from www.and.org.au/pages/disability-statistics.html
7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009). Disability, Ageing and Carers 2009. Available from www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4430.02009?OpenDocument
8. Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney (2011). LEFT BEHIND: Monitoring the social inclusion of young Australians with self-reported long term health conditions, impairments or disabilities 2001–2009. Available from sydney.edu.au/health-sciences/cdrp/publications.shtml
9. National Disability Coordination Officer Program (2013). What is a disability? Available from www.ndcoinspire21.com/?page_id=36
10. Australian Network on Disability (2013). Disability Statistics. Available from www.and.org.au/pages/disability-statistics.html