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Progress and achievements

How we support people with disabilities

Our ambition is to become Australia’s leading tertiary education provider for all students and an employer of choice for people with disability. Here is a summary of our key achievements and milestones since 2003 to support students, staff and visitors with disability. 

The University's campuses, teaching spaces and learning facilities have changed physically and socially in the last 168 years.

Accessibility is a primary concern when we build new infrastructure, update current buildings, implement new teaching and learning platforms, and adapt current ways of studying and working to be more inclusive of our diverse population.

Here’s a summary of how accessibility and disability support services have improved for our community – students, staff and visitors to our campuses.

Students talking around a table at Disability Inclusion Week

Key milestones and significant projects

Our campuses have undergone multiple physical changes. In 2013 the University's Campus Infrastructure and Services finalised an Accessible Environment Plan priority list for 2013-17, commenced an audit of 170 buildings and campuses to review completed projects, and identified a future master plan for accessibility.

Here are some of the major access barrier removal projects completed by the University in recent years.

Improving the route from Shepherd Street to Eastern Avenue

As many staff and students will attest, the route from Shepherd Street to Eastern Avenue­ – including access to the Engineering Precinct and Cadigal Green – is now a smooth journey into campus.

Additions over the last few years include:

  • Boardwalk and level access entry to Ralph’s Café and the Coop bookstore
  • Ramp to Maze Crescent and the Seymour Centre, adjacent to Mechanical Engineering
  • Pedestrian bridge across the high-traffic City Road to the main campus (Camperdown/Darlington), including a lift and accessible ramp

Ramps

  • To the Anderson Stuart Building
  • To the Great Hall
  • To Level 3 of the Chemical Engineering building
  • To Old School
  • To the Noel Martin Sports Centre
  • To Fisher Library
  • To the Chemistry Building

Entrances

  • Chemistry Library
  • Fisher Library
  • Anderson Stuart Building
  • Botany Building
  • On-grade access to the Mungo MaCallum and Griffith Taylor Buildings
  • Architecture building
  • New Animal Hospital for veterinary science

Lifts

  • MacLaurin Hall
  • Seymour Centre and its carpark
  • Holme Building and Footbridge
  • Edward Ford
  • Physics Building
  • Fisher Library

Car spaces

  • Law Building Library
  • New Animal Hospital for veterinary science
  • Provision of accessible parking bays in the F10 carpark

Wheelchair hoists

  • To the Great Hall

Accessible teaching spaces and associated facilities

  • Law Building (26 spaces)
  • Badham
  • Edward Ford Building
  • Physics Building
  • Fisher Library

Toilet upgrades

  • Carslaw Building toilets
  • Fisher Library

Other facilities

  • Accessible route to Quadrangle and Great Hall via Clocktower
  • New sports hall, lift and change rooms at Noel Martin Centre

Accessibility software 

Around 2013, the Fisher Library Assistive Technology Lab found a home on the main floor of the building. In this dedicated room, specialist computer hardware and software is made available, through which staff and students can access course content and other materials.

The Assistive Technology Lab provides a range of specialist technology applications. These include:

  • screen readers and screen magnifiers used by students with low vision
  • speech recognition software used by students with physical disabilities and writing disorders
  • text to speech software used by people with reading impairments
  • organisational tools such as MindManager, used by students who have trouble with planning and sequencing ideas.

Specialist hardware includes desktop and handled magnifiers, high-speed scanners, Braille embosser, tactile image-maker, electric height-adjustable desks and a Multi-Function Device (MFD) printer.

Online accessibility guidelines

In 2009 the University created an accessibility assessment service to ensure websites, applications and online resources are compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Digital content now uses templates and working practices to satisfy an AA rating for web content accessibility.

The team at Disability Services currently works with approximately 2000 students to ensure students with disability are provided with an equitable opportunity to achieve academic success at the University. Disability Services supports independence, responsibility and autonomy in the way that students can access this service, via an online service request system. This ensures their ability to manage their needs with independence and on a needs basis.

Disability Services also works closely with academic and administrative areas to ensure students with disability are provided with appropriate, reasonable and equitable support that maintains the academic integrity of the course. A student’s required support is communicated to academic staff via the 'academic plan' model, which has been used since 2011 and was implemented as a consistent approach University wide in 2016.

Student Alexis describes how access to this support led to achievement: “I called Disability Services as a last-ditch effort before breakdown and the help was amazing. A staff member advocated for me and spoke with all of the coordinators so that I could create an assessment schedule that was actually possible.”

Improvements in teaching and learning spaces

Integrating and foregrounding accessibility within teaching and learning spaces has been an ongoing part of implementing the Disability Action Plan 2013-18. Some of the more well-known results include the following.

Lecture recording: lectures in University-owned lecture theatres are now, by default, recorded and available online for students unable to attend. Lecture recordings afford students with hearing, learning, vision, physical impairments flexibility in how they engage with lecture content and ensure the content can be adapted to different accessibility needs.

  • Live remote captioning: students with profound deafness benefit from live remote captioning, introduced into lecture theatres in 2009.
  • Echo360: The introduction of Echo360 allows lecturers to record their lessons and upload them to the University's learning management system, Canvas.

Canvas

With 9 percent of our students indicating in a recent survey that they use accessibility tools to access Canvas, it’s crucial that it complies with world accessibility standards.

Canvas has improved the experience for all users through:

  • free computerised multi-language captioning for Arc (Canvas’ video platform)
  • accessibility checker for all text editors, making it even easier for teachers and designers to build for accessibility
  • simpler layouts and language
  • better use of alternative text
  • more diverse modalities of assessment and information delivery
  • smoother navigation.

Stepping Into internships for university students with disability  

Established and managed by the Australian Network on Disability, Stepping Into is a diversity talent program that introduces skilled and talented university students with a disability to professional workplaces across a wide range of industries. This program supports the cultivation of an inclusive and diverse workplace culture.

One of the available internal Equity Fellowships, the Laffan Fellowship was established for researchers who have experienced a disability for a significant period of time. Recipients are awarded up to $60,000 to cover teaching relief and research support.

A committee of University staff meets four times each year to review the Disability Action Plan and support the implementation of the plan's six main objectives. The Disability Consultative Committee reports to the Senior Executive Group Sub-Committee – it reviews key Disability Action Plan points and shares feedback with that committee.

The Disability at Work Network (DAWN) is for staff with lived experience of disability and those who want to help create a disability-inclusive university. The DAWN connects staff and provides a welcoming and supportive environment to share experiences. 

The DAWN is also a great resource for consultation on the impact of change on staff with disability. DAWN members can provide very helpful feedback on current processes, systems and environments, identify barriers to inclusion for people with disability and give advice on any planned changes before they are implemented. They are an ideal group who want to help make positive improvements to the staff experience for everyone.

The DAWN was established in June 2014 and launched at the first Disability Inclusion Week in September 2014. The Diversity and Inclusion team, part of Workforce Development in Human Resources, lead the project to establish the DAWN.

In June 2015 the University's Diversity and Inclusion team and Disability Services partnered with the Australian Network on Disability to develop and deliver a disability awareness training program for the University.

‘Disability Confidence for University Staff’, ‘Disability Confidence for Managers and Supervisors’ and ‘Supporting Students with a Disability’ are two-hour workshops that are made available to all staff.

Encouraging all staff to participate in career development opportunities is essential for the University to achieve its goals and aspirations for disability inclusion and to contribute to becoming an employer of choice for people with disability.  This program provides enhanced access to learning and development opportunities for our academic and professional staff with disability.

The University launched Disability Awareness Week in 2014. It is now an annual event – known as Disability Inclusion Week – which brings our student and staff community together to learn more about the experiences of people who live with disability, and to celebrate diversity.

The current Disability Action Plan (DAP) 2013-2018 is undergoing evaluation. Staff will be called on over the coming months to contribute their feedback and, in turn, help develop the new DAP for 2019–24.

Disability Action Plan 2013-18

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The Equity Fellowship was really transformational for me. It gave me time to manage my illness [autoimmune disease] and decide on the research direction that I wanted to take.
Equity Fellowship awardee