Disability Action Plan Launch

Image of launch

The University launched its third Disability Action Plan in August, with speeches by Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum and the Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence. In launching the plan, Professor McCallum, a former dean of the Law School who is blind, drew on personal experience:

“Why do we have a Disability Action Plan? True, we are in a sense required to do so under education standards and to give the plan to the Human Rights Commission pursuant to relevant provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act and Disability Services Act.

But why? We’re not doing it just to fulfill legislation. We’re doing it because we as a university community recognise that persons with disability have the same rights and inherent dignity as everyone else. That has been the creed of this University since Wentworth opened it in 1852.

“Let me tell you a story of my entrance to the University of Sydney. In 1991, the first Professorship in Industrial Law for Australia was advertised here at the University of Sydney. We had two children at that stage and a third was in (my wife) Mary’s tummy. I applied. Mary was in between jobs and I thought, “What do I say to them? I’m going to need a little bit of extra help.” There were three of us shortlisted. The other two looked very appointable to me, great scholars. In fact, they have both gone on to have stellar careers.

How was I going to tell them that I needed a synthetic speech program? This was before the Disability Discrimination Act. The head of the committee said, “That’s not a big issue. See you later!” I thought, “Oh, another one I have lost.” But I got the job and I am very honoured to be the first totally blind professor at any university in Australia or New Zealand.