“Despite some tremendous progress, we know that opportunities for participation for people with intellectual disability in higher education are still held back by outdated notions of what people can or can’t achieve,’ said Professor Patricia O’Brien, Director of the Centre for Disability Studies, an affiliate of the University of Sydney.
On Wednesday 27 March, the Centre for Disability Research held a round table event at the University of Sydney on the back of the launch of their world-first book documenting successful disability-inclusive tertiary education initiatives across the globe, lived student experiences and policy recommendations.
Co-Editor Friederike Gadow said Australia is behind many countries when it comes to post-secondary school opportunities for people with intellectual disability.
While many Australian universities are interested in running programs there are a lot of barriers.
“There are currently only two such initiatives in Australia whereas in the United States they have several in most states – partly because there is policy to underpin inclusive higher education, resulting in necessary funding.”
One of the initiatives documented in the book is uni 2 beyond, the award-winning program run at the University of Sydney by the Centre for Disability Studies.
Participants in uni 2 beyond are supported to take part in university life as audit (non-enrolled) students and work towards individual learning outcomes, while supported through a mentoring program.
Since its introduction in 2012, the initiative has grown from five to 10 current students, with over 30 alumni who have studied across arts and social sciences, health sciences, business, and with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
“The program has benefited many students, not just those participating in the program, but also the wider university through students and lecturing staff gaining an increased understanding and appreciation of what it means to live with an intellectual disability,” said Professor O’Brien.
“A key challenge moving forward, and one we look forward to discussing at the roundtable, is how to make inclusion the norm in the future through strategies such as changing the way we teach and prepare our future educators.”