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Disability Practice in the Spotlight

    Pauline Melham

    When COVID-19 hit, New Zealand moved very quickly to a strict level of restrictions aimed at quashing the virus before it could spread. The restrictions affected every part of life, including tertiary students in universities and polytechnics (similar to Australia’s TAFEs). Pauline Melham, Manager of Disability Services at Ara Institute of Canterbury, can vividly recall the day her country went into lockdown. Read more about Pauline Melham

    Callum Corkill

    COVID-19 has upturned everyone’s plans for 2020, creating a climate of uncertainty and a sense that nothing will be as it was before. It’s enough to unsettle even the most seasoned academic team or dedicated student. But with the disruption has come opportunities, according to Callum Corkill, Accessibility Technologist for UniAccess at the University of Western Australia (UWA). Read more about Callum Corkill

    Belinda Wallis

    Belinda has been an education advisor, disability at Canberra Institute of Technology’s Pathways College for six years now. She has worked in a variety of areas over that time, beginning as a student before teaching business administration for a few years. She also did some project work with online enrolments, eLearning for industry, student services and student support. Read more about Belinda Wallis

    OAO Opeing all Options logo

    This is the last article in a series of four that celebrates Dyslexia Awareness Month in October and the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Opening All Options, a resource for students with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLDs). The final article looks at the Assistive Technology section, that includes assessing appropriate use of assistive technology, personalising assistive technology solutions and learning barriers and assistive technology. Read more about Opening All Options. Part 4

    text 'dyslexia' 'words' 'learning' 'difficulty' 'disability' arranged into a circle

    This is the third article in a series of four that celebrates Dyslexia Awareness Month in October and the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Opening All Options, a resource for students with Learning Disabilities. This article looks at the section for For Academics and Teachers in the current version. Read more about Opening All Options. Part 3

    OAO Opeing all Options logo

    This is the second article in a series of four that celebrates Dyslexia Awareness Month in October and the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Opening All Options, a resource for students with Learning Disabilities. This article looks at the section for Disability Practitioners in the current version. Read more about Opening All Options. Part 2

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    Photo of the orginal OAO cover

    October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. It is also the 20th Anniversary of the launch of the first Opening All Options Learning Disability Resource. Trevor Allan has taken the opportunity to prepare a series of articles to celebrate Dyslexia Awareness Month through the medium of Opening All Options. Over the intervening 20 years, Opening All Options has been revised and updated several times, keeping pace with the developments and changes in the education systems, technology and strategies for managing the impact of Learning Disabilities (LD). This first article will look at some of the history and background of Learning Disabilities in Australian education, and the role of Opening All Options in changing the environment for people with Learning Disabilities in education in Australia. Read more about Opening All Options

    Photo of Jackie Weinman

    Playing a key supporting role in students university journey For Jackie Weinman, the shift from working in occupational therapy in a health setting to an educational environment seemed like a natural transition, one which she judged to be a move to a positive and progressive environment which lead to substantial pride in her role and her experiences in helping to support others’ university experiences. Read more about Jackie

    Photo of Wendy Paulusz

    How Inclusive is my Subject? (HIIMS) is a new project at La Trobe University that is enabling more inclusion for students – by helping academics to pinpoint just how inclusive their classes are. It is an online professional development module for La Trobe staff that prompts them to reflect on various aspects of their subjects, including assessment, curriculum design, accessible learning resources, teaching, team/group work and more. Wendy Paulusz is lead content writer on the project and says HIIMS has been designed to be as easy and useful for staff to use as possible.  Read more about How Inclusive is my Subject? (HIIMS)

    Photo of Sonocent, Uni Adelaide and Griffith uni logos

    Sonocent Audio Notetaker @ the University of Adelaide and Griffith University  Much of higher education relies on transcribing and transforming audio information – actions that can be difficult for some students with disability. Sonocent Audio Notetaker is a software tool and app that can capture audio, text and slides and transform them into a format that suits the user, allowing students with disability to take information from their lecture theatres and tutorials and use it in the way that best allows them to learn. In this article we will hear from two disability practitioners about how Sonocent has transformed learning for their students, as well as assistive technology consultant Jim Sprialis about how the program works.  Read more about Sonocent Audio Notetaker

    Photo of Michelle Jepsen

    Motivated by the possibility of changing the life of a student The role of DLO is to have an understanding of individual student learning styles and communicate that with their teachers, who can then make adjustments to cater to each students’ needs. It is these adjustments that Michelle Jepsen finds fascinating about the role because every student is different and has a completely different set of strengths and needs.  Read more about Michelle Jepsen

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    Debbie Hindle

    Peer-to-Peer, Heart-to-Heart: Mentoring Students on the Autism Spectrum Debbie Hindle is Coordinator of SPEERMENT (Specialist Peer Mentor Program) at the University of Tasmania. She helped create, implement and continues to develop this unique initiative at The University of Tasmania for students with autism to be mentored by peers.  Read more about Debbie Hindle

    Brandon Taylor

    The rewards of work are immeasurable  Brandon is the Manager of Student Support for TAFE Queensland, serving the Brisbane region. He has found his experience of working to enrich the lives of students over the last 11 years with TAFE Queensland to be deeply rewarding, moving through the system in providing disability support services until landing in the Manager role 4 years ago. Read more about Brandon Taylor

    Gabrielle O'Brien

    Enabling Equity in Education When Gabrielle O’Brien decided to set foot at university for the first time, she could never have predicted in the following decades she would become an instrumental, driving force in advocacy for equity amongst students and staff alike in the following decades. 

    Achieving equity in the higher education sector is no small feat. For Gabrielle O’Brien, Manager of Student Diversity and Equity at Griffith University and President of Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA), this has been a lifelong passion. Read more about Gabrielle O'Brien

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    Petria McGoldrick

    Partnerships – in working together, supporting each other, always learning & celebrating success. It’s been fifteen years since Petria McGoldrick commenced her role as a Disability Liaison Officer at the University of Wollongong. Though it’s been a while, she can still recall her role prior to this one; she was working in occupational rehab, based in the workers’ compensation area, and also assisting people from the community with disability to fulfil their work and education goals. Clearly, disability assistance is an area she has long been passionate about.  Read more about Petria McGoldrick

    David Pech

    “It’s about connecting with each individual and understanding their needs as an individual.” That’s the best piece of advice that David Pech, Senior Disability Liaison Officer at Charles Darwin University, says he’s ever received.

    “My first supervisor was also a psychology teacher, so she trained as a psychologist, and she had some great advice…in disability, it’s always individualised. I think what she taught me that’s really valuable is that you have to make that time to have an individualised approach to each student that comes through the door and you can’t make it an administrative process, it doesn’t work that well if you try to do that.”

    It’s the same advice he would give to today’s newcomers.  Read more about David Pech

    Rick Boffa

    Managing Equitable Learning Services across RMIT’s multiple campuses. Rick recently celebrated ten years with RMIT, he works across all campuses and heads up a team of Advisors..

    In his role as Manager Equitable Learning Services (ELS), Rick spends majority of his time at the systemic/tactical level collaborating with academic and teaching staff, Human Resources, Property Services, IT and Legal Services focusing on ensuring that RMIT continues to offer an inclusive welcoming environment for everyone including students with disabilities. Read more about Rick

    Michelle Anderson

    The first six months in higher education. Whilst Michelle Anderson is only six months into her role as Manager Inclusion, Student Engagement Unit at UniSA, she brings over two decades of expertise as a disability practitioner within various organisations, such as the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), MS Society and Disability Employment Services.

    Michelle is particularly impressed with the strong network of disability practitioners in higher education - so passionate, like-minded with such a connectedness that works really well. Read more about the Michelle

    Rosemary Kayess

    Disability Innovation Institute. An Idea whose time has come: It’s easy to think that new initiatives emerge overnight. The reality is that this is mostly far from the truth. After fifteen years of imagining what could be possible if people interested in inclusion - academics from across different faculties, people with disability, organisations and governments – came together to research and design solutions that would to have a positive impact on the experiences of people with disability, the University of NSW are proud to announce their Disability Innovation Institute. Read more about the Disability Innovation Institute

    David Swayn

    Making University Options a Reality through Virtual Reality What would you achieve if you thought you only had 12 months in your role? When David Swayn became the NDCO with Steps Group Australia a year ago, he understood funding for the role was only guaranteed for this long, so he set out to do as much as he could to make a positive difference for people with disability transitioning to tertiary education, and then on to graduate employment. What he has achieved in this time is impressive. And the good news is that with a funding extension David is still here, and is looking forward to what he can continue to do in the sector. Read more about David

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    Anthony Gartner

    Meet Our New President: Anthony Gartner. We can all feel that our jobs are busy enough and there’s no room to take on anything else. So when someone steps up to take on an additional role, it’s a courageous and commendable act. So we acknowledge and welcome Anthony Gartner’s commitment as he takes up the role of our new President of The Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability (ATEND). Read more about Anthony

    UTS logo

    Making Connections to Make a Difference: Liz Penny. Making a positive difference to the experiences of students with disability by connecting with students, her team, other staff and the wider community is what Liz does best in her work at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). As the Manager of Accessibility and Financial Assistance she leads an enthusiastic and committed team of Accessibility Consultants to assist her achieve this goal with the 1500 students who are registered with their service. Read more about Liz


    Keeping VET In the Loop: Rhonda Ebeling is a Head Teacher Disabilities in NSW TAFE North Coast. As someone who has always been committed to supporting students with additional needs, Rhonda initially trained as a teacher of the deaf and has qualifications in Auslan. A move to Canberra back in 1994, was the unexpected catalyst to her tertiary disability practitioner career. She took up a position in a disability support role in the TAFE there, and since then, apart from a teaching role for four years, has worked in this sector. Rhonda has been in her current role since 2009. Read more about Rhonda

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    Why My Job is Great: Shelley Odewahn In our sector we are very good at identifying what needs to change, but often don’t have the time or the resources to make it happen. Since 2011, Shelley Odewahn, a Project Officer in Student Access & Inclusion at Southern Cross University (SCU) has been responsible for developing initiatives to address these gaps. The broad scope of her role gives her the freedom to creatively work on strategies to increase the access and participation of people with disability in higher education. “It’s the greatest job in the world” says Shelley. Read more about Shelley 


    STAR Program – University of South AustraliaThe University of South Australia are meeting the needs of students with disability transitioning into, as well as those transitioning out of, their university with the introduction of an innovative new program. Their peer support program - Supporting Transition and Retention (STAR)- provides transition support to new students with disability Read more about the STAR program

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    Equipping Students for Life:  As the Lead Vocational Teacher in Student Support Services in Tafe Queensland – Skills Tech for the past seven years Dr Chris Summers has been supporting students with disability to equip them skills for work and life. Read more about Chris


    Creating openness and reflection:  Shannon Kerrigan has been working within Equity & Diversity at La Trobe University for eighteen years. Currently, as the Manager of Equity & Diversity she is responsible for overseeing disability support as well as refugee support, harassment and discrimination complaints.  Read more about Shannon


    A son-inspired journey: Sue Hancock, an Access and Success Officer with the ANU has a great knowledge of transition for students with disability across the education span, as she has worked in primary, secondary and now the tertiary sector. “I know the issues faced within and between each level, and this understanding gives my current work an added edge, and I love to see students across their educational journey”. Read more about Sue

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    University of Sydney – Disability Action Plan 2013-2018

    Dagmar Kminiak, Manager of Disability Services at the University of Sydney, and Louise Bannerman the DAP Project Implementation Officer share with ADCET the key elements of the success, as well as some of the challenges faced in the development and implementation of their current Disability Action Plan (DAP). Read more about the University of Sydney's Disability Action Plan Project


    On The Campus Beat: Donna-Marie Thompson brings a strong commitment to social justice and advocating for the rights of others to her current position as the Disability Support Coordinator at the Springfield Campus of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). Read more about Donna-Marie


    Opening big doors in a big country: Nicky finds her role rewarding and enjoys the opportunity to be able to open doors for students when they think they may be closed. “It’s a job with a can do attitude and if we can’t do it we will find a resolution. However, she also acknowledges that it is not always easy. As the Disability Support Manager, Nicky is often a person’s first point of call before they approach anyone else, so she has to be the listener, she is the thinker, the administrator and coordinator all in one.” Read more about Nicky

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    Smashing down barriers….gently

    Originating from Oxford, a Masters from Glasgow and working in Vietnam for the last nine years gives Carol Witney a wonderful international perspective into access and inclusion. Carol is currently the Disability Practitioner for RMIT at their Vietnam campuses. The Vietnamese RMIT has an enrolment of 6000 students and operates over two campuses, the largest in Ho Chi Minh City, and a smaller one in Hanoi Read more about Carol

    Ellen Brackenreg Sharon Kerr of Global Access Project speaks with Ellen Brackenreg of Western Sydney University.

    Ellen Brackenreg has held a number of positions at the University and for the past seven years she has served as Director of Student Support and is now Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students). The interview provides an insight into some of the issues being faced by universities today and the response of Western Sydney University in meeting these.  Read more about Ellen

    Strength through collaboration: Dallas Dunn. As a Disability Advisor at the University of South Australia Dallas Dunn knows the value of working collaboratively within his institution, with his state colleagues and within the broader Tertiary Education Disability Network. He finds that regular meetings with others is a great way to share knowledge, extend practices and approaches, and generate new ideas.  Read more about Dallas

    Quenching a thirst for knowledge every day: Shaun Corcoran. As the Disability Coordinator for Bendigo TAFE, Shaun works across five campuses and multiple correction services in Regional Victoria. It is a very busy job, and he has never known a job where there is so much to learn. “Assume you don’t know anything, everyone is different, their experience is different, and their backgrounds are different”.  Read more about Shaun

    Supporting the supporters: Kay Dean. After 35 years of working in the University of Newcastle student services division which included disability support and student equity roles, and for the past fifteen years of that as the NDCO, Kay has seen many times over how education has changed lives. A fact that she also knows first-hand Read more about Kay

    Progress through other’s perspectives: Judy Hartley. With an impressive track record of 40 years in education, spanning primary/secondary and special education, VET and university Judy understands the value of different perspectives in achieving good educational outcomes for students with disability. Read more about Judy

    Turning obstacles into pathways: Jodie Hoger is highly active in creating opportunities and inspiring confidence in the students and staff she works with to achieve the best possible pathways for students.  Jodie’s ambition at high school was to be a teacher. But when she lost her sight at the age of 16, the Careers Adviser for Visually Handicapped told her:  “Don’t be so stupid, you can’t be a teacher.” So determined to achieve her dream, Jodie became the first blind student at the University of Wollongong, undertaking a psychology degree. She then went on to establish the University’s disability service, running disability awareness training for staff. Read more about Jodie

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    Making small steps matter in big places: Through twenty years of experience working in the Victorian disability and higher education sector Matt Salas knows that it is the small steps and wins that really matter in achieving better outcomes for students with disability. In 1994 he began working in TAFE and Uni as a casual disability support worker. In 2000 he was offered the then solo DLO role at Holmesglen TAFE, the largest TAFE in Victoria. After overseeing the growth of that service, he moved in 2007 to the largest Uni - Monash. Read more about Matt

    Head and shoulder photo of Doug McGinn sitting at his work desk

    A Job That Really Adds Up: Doug McGinn. For our inaugural Disability Practice in the Spotlight, we talk to Doug McGinn. Doug graduated with a maths degree in 1991 and was aiming for a high-flying, high-paying actuary position. Instead he took up a temporary position of Disability Liaison Officer with the University of Tasmania.  Twenty-three years later Doug continues to work with the University as a Disability Adviser, and has no regrets about staying in a job where the satisfaction of knowing you are making a difference in peoples’ lives far outweighs an actuary’s pay-packet.  He has seen many times over, how the organisation of appropriate supports and accommodations can be essential life changers for some students.  Read more about Doug. 

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