Disability not the problem, awareness and accessibility are
A quarter of a century ago, estimates put the number of people with disability enrolled at university at as few as 5000. Today, that number tops 75,000. In terms of increased participation, people with disability are a genuine higher education success story.
But, so far, that participation win has not translated into staying-in and completing higher education. Here, students with disability still face significant social, technological and other barriers.
I’m in the midst of a 12-month fellowship funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, examining the best and the worst of disability support in Australian higher education. More than 1,700 students with disability participated in a national survey and several hundred of them took part in detailed, follow-up discussions.
Much of what I’ve found will come as little surprise to people who have advocated and researched in this area for any length of time: for example, that universities generally offer supportive and safe spaces for students with disability. It is important to remember that many disabilities are hidden and students exercise agency as to if, when and how they disclose. So our supportive environments are as much down to them as it is to people without disability.
What my research has also revealed is how much an overall supportive environment can be disproportionately impacted by a single bad actor, process or learning design. The study found numerous examples of students who were initially treated well by their disability support office, but were confronted with uninformed or even negative attitudes in the classroom.
Original Source: (Associate Professor Tim Pitman, Equity Fellow, NCSEHE - Campus Morning Mail)
14 February 2021