Your role as a disability practitioner within the higher education and training sectors sits within a specialised field of practice and requires a broad range of skills and experience.
The principles of access and inclusion are central to the role, and it is therefore important that you adopt a holistic approach to service provision: when we get it right, we increase rates of participation in all aspects of the educational environment for everyone. This does not negate the need for specialised disability services but rather encourages a ‘whole of institution’ approach that does not rely solely on you to take responsibility for all disability related matters. Disability services should inform and complement all other areas of your institution.
Practitioners may be known by many titles, including: Access and Inclusion Officer, Equity Officer, Accessible Learning Coordinator, Disability Liaison Officer, and Disability Adviser. Titles that focus on access, equity and inclusion are the way forward. While titles and position descriptions vary from institution to institution, the primary functions of the disability practitioner in the institutional environment are likely to include:
- Providing individual assessments/interviews to determine eligibility for services, ensuring disability related documentation is valid and current
- Undertaking a registration process and providing services to a database of individually registered students, ranging from small to very large volumes of registrations
- Promoting disability services within the institutional environment, e.g. increasing the profile of available services, inclusion in and coordination of orientation and induction processes
- Making recommendations to academic and administrative staff regarding reasonable accommodations and adjustments and alternative forms of assessment, as required under relevant legislation and institutional policies
- Facilitating the coordinated delivery of articulated support services, including induction, orientation, training/coordination or management of disability support workers such as note-takers, tutors and interpreters
- Playing a mediatory role between the rights of students with disabilities and the interests of the institution.
- Identifying and facilitating required adaptive technologies and equipment
- Addressing inclusion issues, e.g. access to buildings, programs of study and services, designated parking, and participation in all aspects of the education or training environment
- Engaging in community education and outreach programs, developing strong prospective student referral streams and identifying complementary support services
- Actively participating in the development and monitoring of institutional policies, procedures and programs, including opportunities to provide professional development to institutional staff
- Identifying, securing and effectively managing internal and external funding