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Muhammad Ali once said that it is the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. Once it becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen. The same can be applied to education and the learning process even if it involves a set of daily challenges and obstacles. Disability or not, every student is equal and has the right to live her life without barriers and learn the way one sees fit. It is a reason why colleges and universities in Australia promote strong values of equality and provide resources for people that require an extra bit of care and accommodation. Most educational institutions in Australia stand for diversity, mutual respect, and care, offering optimal inclusive education resources for almost two decades. Unfortunately, most students with special needs know very little about available college resources that provide student disabilities services, which is why we shall try our best to remedy the situation.
Students with Disabilities Statistical Reference
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 18.3% (approximately 4.3 million people) of the Australian population have at least minor disabilities. Unfortunately, disabled students still face certain problems with their access to higher education in the country.
The AIHW statistics show that only 15% of people with disabilities, aged 20 and over, receive a Bachelor’s degree, compared to 31% of individuals without disability. The statistics are even worse in terms of support. Only 35% of primary and secondary school students with disabilities and only 12% among students with disability that study for a non-school qualification receive the level of support they need.
In 2018, there were 7.3% of students with disabilities in Australia, compared to 6.8% in the previous year, which marks an increase. Likewise, there is a steady enrolment growth by 64.9% over the last six years, being 33,706 students in 2012 and 55,565 students in 2018. This data can be explained by increased access to
educational resources, distance learning courses, a special campus environment, extended disability support services, and an increase in the use of innovative learning technologies. All these factors have made education not only more affordable but also accessible for students with special needs who need additional care and tutoring.
Your Legal Rights As a Disabled Student in Australia
Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to be a legal expert to understand the disability laws in Australia. It will be sufficient to know three general Acts issued by the Australian Government, including:
This Act stands for the protection of individuals with disabilities, promoting the rights of equality, and fighting against discrimination of adults and children. The purpose of this Act is to protect people with disabilities from unlawful circumstances, especially when dealing with education and employment.
While it is often overlooked by students, this Act contains detailed information regarding various support services provided by the Australian Government. It includes accommodation of disabled students and the support services with additional tutoring required for learning.
While this Act mostly deals with social security payments, it is still important to consider this kind of support as a student because one can apply for special scholarships even as a distance learning student with Disability Support Pension or Sickness Allowance during the academic term.
Remember that there may be minor differences, depending on territory and the university in question. Therefore, check the Acts related to your state and territory of residence, including Australian Capital Territory’s Disability Services Act 1991, New South Wales’s Disability Inclusion Act 2014, Northern Territory’s Disability Services Act 2012, Queensland’s Disability Services Act 2006, South Australia’s Disability Services Act 1993, Tasmania’s Disability Services Act 2011, Victoria’s Disability Services Act 2006, and Western Australia’s Disability Services Act 1993.
In addition to Disability Discrimination Act (1992), there is Disability Standards for Education (2005) Act, which guarantees rights to get enrolled in public and private schools, private education institutions like private business colleges, universities, and various organisations that provide educational services. Moreover, this Act clearly states that educators must make reasonable adjustments, provide a full-bodied learning process, and get rid of any harassment and victimisation of students with disabilities. It is also echoed by the Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which states that it is against the law for education providers to discriminate against students with disabilities.
What Do Universities Offer to Disabled Students in Australia?
Although there can be differences between institutions in the country, most of them are obliged to keep within existing educational standards. As a rule, it means more than additional learning assistance and getting around the campus, involving your legal rights and social protection. In most cases, universities in Australia must provide students with disability support services along with assigning a trained Disability Advisor. It must include detailed learning assistance and emotional care. Since there may be subtle rules of enrollment, it is best to register at the university’s relevant disability services office before your studies start. Always discuss your special needs with the advisor and study the campus resources and infrastructure.
The majority of disability services will include the provision of particular equipment like a hearing implant, a wheelchair space, or special learning devices for those students who require additional help in comprehension of the lectures or moving around the campus. Then certain academic adjustments will have to be made right away. It includes changes to course deadlines and discussion of an individual schedule for the students with learning difficulties. An average university must apply technical adjustments to fully meet student’s learning capacities without causing a negative emotional impact or unnecessary stress. Finally, there should be special support services that take care of a student’s emotional state, her interactions around the university and campus.
Ranked 49th among the world’s best universities, it provides unique opportunities for research and future employment. In terms of disability resource support, it meets all disability standards with relevant, inclusive education practices, physical access facilities, individual education planning, and exam arrangements. There also is support for international students, athletes, and individuals with chronic or short-term illnesses which may pose a temporary disability. As you become enrolled, look for an Education Access Plan to understand the way how things function.
The Murdoch University needs no introduction since it has been ranked as the best teaching campus in Australia by Good Universities Guide. It is natural if one considers how much effort has been put into teaching quality and a set of resources that help every student achieve academic excellence. Speaking of disability services on offer, Murdoch provides personal support, which is a benefit for those students who want to keep things private. Murdoch team provides students with professional carers that help students dealing with physical, sensory, mental health, or medical challenges. Likewise, if there are learning difficulties or temporary illnesses, there will be support tailored to a student’s specific needs, including coursework and exam assistance.
Providing three extended campuses, RMIT is one of the best universities in Australia that offers a plethora of subjects dealing with Technology, Data Science, Engineering, Biomedical degrees, Arts, and the Social Sciences. RMIT provides various services for students with disabilities. They range from studying from home or receiving personal one-on-one help that includes meeting with dedicated librarians or technical specialists who can help to convert documents or lecture notes to an accessible format. Regardless of a chosen plan, students with disability have a personal assistant who provides emotional help and guides them through the academic curriculum.
One of Australia’s most famous and leading universities. This institution is a great choice for students with disabilities since it has a long history of providing resources that help students learn without being affected by any health issues. Most importantly, their Equitable Learning Services is free and fully confidential, which means your condition will be kept private and would take no extra expenses. It also relates to the Online Study Environment campus where students can receive sufficient assistance. Remember to register as you get enrolled, asking your assistant for adjustments to study conditions, course materials in required formats, and assistive technologies, if and when necessary.
Swinburne offers one of the best inclusive learning environments for students with disabilities, be it medical, mental, or a temporary health condition. Providing students with primary carers, Swinburne has a great AccessAbility career help program that is available for all students after registering. Once done, you receive an Education Access Plan that will list the services and adjustments for your particular case.
Scholarships for Students with Disabilities in Australia
Most students with disabilities in Australia do not consider scholarships as a way to support them financially during the academic year because they already receive relevant help. One doesn’t have to be an excellent student to apply as there are both private and governmental scholarships that have specific eligibility conditions. Some of these include:
A voluntary AUD 1,094 Start-up loan award, which can be received by students with disabilities among others. There are two loan periods during the calendar year. If you plan to apply, make sure that you are enrolled in an accredited higher education course because Vocational Education and Training courses are not eligible.
It provides financial assistance to citizens or individuals with permanent residence in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. This scholarship is specifically aimed at students with severe disabilities who plan to start with postgraduate studies. The award is usually $NZ 12,000.
Established by a former alumnus of the University of Adelaide, this $3,000 payment per year is meant to support students who aim to become leaders in their academic field of choice and those who also have a disability. The rules and regulations are as defined under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This scholarship is not only meant to honour students with disabilities but also those who participate in work with students that require special assistance or individuals that have made a difference in the lives of disabled people.
There are more than thirty Equity Scholarship types that assist financially disadvantaged students or those who may not meet academic excellence eligibility conditions due to physical or mental disadvantages. Students may apply for Widening Participation Scholarships in case there is an educational disadvantage or choose Chancellor’s Award.
Offering $50,000 during the course duration, this award is aimed at students with physical disabilities. Only Australian or New Zealand citizens are eligible as well as holders of Australian permanent resident visa, or those with humanitarian permission. Applicants must have at least 12 credit points per session and attend on-campus classes. Speaking of disabilities, the award is given to students with physical challenges, visual or hearing impairments, as well as any other ongoing condition that has a significant impact on mobility and learning.
The bursaries represent an annual award by the Riawunna Centre, which represents financial support as well as pastoral guidance and assistance. Although it is mostly related to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander learners, students from the other parts of the country are still eligible. Nevertheless, students must pass the Commonwealth definition of Aboriginality or provide information related to existing disability or a special condition.
It is an award for students facing financial hardships with a value of up to $2,000. It should be noted that only students that have been enrolled at Victoria University of Wellington are eligible unless specified otherwise. In addition to financial struggles, this award is also given to those students that show academic commitment or require assistance with a medical condition. The grants are not meant for tuition fees but daily costs related to studies.
Distance Learning for Disabled Students in Australia
Distance learning became a popular choice for Australian students these days, regardless of their physical or mental condition. It is a great opportunity to study how and when you prefer. Moreover, distance learning makes it possible to overcome various barriers related to disability. Compared to traditional learning, it has unique advantages like adjustment of the course schedule and a personal video instruction where you can ask questions without apprehension of being misunderstood. Since people with disabilities might require an extra bit of time for self-management and planning, many universities in Australia offer special activities and schedules where a tutor is always available and has practical methodologies to offer. Such an approach is especially efficient for students with cognitive learning challenges like ADHD Disorder or PTSD conditions since it offers solutions that work.
No matter how you choose to learn, the most important is to challenge yourself and stay true to what you believe in. The trick is to concentrate on things that disability does not prevent us from doing and never regret those things that it interferes with. There are no limitations other than what we create by giving up!