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ADCET's Accessibility in Action Awards Presentation 2024

ADCET was delighted to announce the 2024 winners of our annual Accessibility in Action Awards. These awards recognise passion, innovation, good practice and leadership in accessibility, and are held in recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and the more than one billion people with disability.

Congratulations to all the 2024 Accessibility in Action Award winners!


Trevor Allan Award

This year ADCET announced a new Individual Award category - The Trevor Allan Award for Excellence in Disability Inclusion and Accessibility. Named after Trevor Allan, a renowned champion and leader in the disability and tertiary sector, this award recognises and celebrates those who have made significant and sustained contributions to creating an equitable and inclusive learning environment for all students.

Cathy Easte

ADCET is proud to acknowledge Cathy Easte as a worthy recipient of the Trevor Allan Award.

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Cathy has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to promoting accessibility and inclusion for students with disability in tertiary education across Australia. Throughout her distinguished career, Cathy has demonstrated exceptional leadership, dedication, and passion in ensuring that students with disability have access to the same opportunities and resources as their peers, fostering an inclusive and supportive educational experience.

Cathy's personal experience of disability and the many barriers to participation in all aspects of life have fuelled her lifelong mission to be the change she wants to see in the world. As one of the first cohort of deaf students admitted to Griffith University to do a teaching degree, Cathy has been a trailblazer, paving the way for greater inclusion and accessibility in tertiary education.

Cathy has held the position of president with the Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability (ATEND) for a number of years and has worked tirelessly to ensure the issues of the sector and students are on the national agenda. As president she has worked to improve the knowledge and connectivity of professionals across the sector. She is an active contributor to the Austed discussion list providing those who are newer to the sector, or have questions, with knowledgeable responses and encouragement. Cathy has participated and supported ongoing lobbying activities relating to students with disability, an example of this is the ATEND response the University Accord.

Cathy's unwavering advocacy and dedication have had a tangible and sustainable impact on the lives of students with disability. She has co-authored papers and co-facilitated workshops on implementing Universal Design principles and assistive technology to improve the learning experience for all students. Cathy's work has not only removed barriers but has also fostered a more inclusive and supportive educational environment, enabling students with disability to access and succeed in their tertiary education.


Individual winners

In the Individual Category, four outstanding individuals were recognised for their exceptional efforts in championing accessibility:

John Fardoulis, TAFE NSW

John is an exceptional individual who has made significant contributions to promoting inclusive education and championing the rights of students and staff with disabilities. John has gone above and beyond, demonstrating continuous dedication, innovative thinking, and outstanding leadership within disability inclusion and accessibility. His tireless efforts have paved the way for TAFE NSW to continue their commitment and understanding around accessibility and inclusion.

John shows exceptional leadership, dedication, and passion in ensuring that students and teachers with disability have access to the same opportunities and resources as their peers, fostering an inclusive and supportive educational experience.

He has been involved in numerous projects across TAFE NSW and has won many awards including a TAFE NSW Employee Recognition Award in 2023. His unwavering commitment to inclusive education has made a lasting impact, and his passion continues to inspire others.

Drew Burns, Federation University

Through his role as the Manager of Accessibility and Residential Wellbeing at Federation University, he has significantly enhanced the accessibility for students with disabilities. Drew's work has resulted in tangible outcomes and benefits that have had a sustainable, measurable, and positive impact on the lives of these students.

Drew's leadership, advocacy, and sustained commitment to advancing the rights and needs of students with disabilities are evident in his passion, dedication, and vision. Drew's advocacy for accessibility has driven meaningful change within Federation University. His unwavering dedication to creating an environment where every individual feels valued and supported has made a lasting impact on the lives of students with disabilities, fostering a more inclusive and equitable tertiary education sector.

Jen Cousins, Ex - TAFE South Australia

Over countless years Jen has consistently given her time and expertise in working with colleagues across the tertiary sector in developing and educating others in accessible and inclusive practices from her roles as a National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) and as a Teaching and Learning Specialist at TAFE South Australia.

She was a founding member of the UDL Community of Practice (CoP) and has worked closely with ADCET to develop a range of eLearning modules and resources including the popular UDL in Tertiary Education. Jen was one of the lead contributors in the Supporting Students with Disability in VET project and has presented several webinars for the sector.

Jen's body of work has been extensive across the student lifecycle including transition and employment through to academic support and guidelines for creating accessible learning environments. Thank you Jen for your passion, commitment and unwavering ability to ensure everyone has equitable opportunities.

Justin Wylie, Central Queensland University

Justin was nominated for this award for his ongoing dedication and commitment to digital accessibility, especially in his role as a Learning Designer. Justin he has always shown a consistent drive in trying to improve the accessibility of teaching materials and online resources for students with a disability. He tries to find ways to educate academic staff on how they can improve practical aspects of their current practice to provide greater inclusion for all students.

Justin has been an active member of the ADCET Assistive Technology Community of Practice and the Universal Design for Learning Community of Practice and contributes regularly to engaging discussions on improving the workload for academic staff while increasing the inclusion in their teaching. Justin has run many professional development workshops at CQU and presented several practical workshops for the sector including at the ADCET UDL Symposium in late 2023 and as a co-host of two 90-minute workshops targeted at academic and professional staff in early 2024.


Project Team winners

The Project Team Category showcased the collaborative efforts of 10 teams that have made significant strides in promoting accessibility in their respective areas. These teams have demonstrated outstanding innovation, dedication, and impact through their initiatives.

HDS727 - Auslan and the Deaf Community Course, Deakin University

Dr Amie O'Shea, Ramas McRae, Haley Martin, Maz Thomas, Paula Thornton (please confirm with the team that this is the exhaustive unit team!)

Dr Amie O'Shea, senior lecturer at Deakin University, partnered with Deaf community leaders to put together an incredible unit called Auslan and the Deaf Community: Health and Wellbeing (https://www.deakin.edu.au/courses/unit?unit=HDS727). The unit is the first of its kind in Australia, was well subscribed to by students, and combined Auslan language instruction with Deaf cultural education. The unit was delivered to a range of different student cohorts (undergraduate, postgraduate, across a range of disciplines). The unit was an excellent example of community knowledge and lived experience coming together with academic and Deaf community members and allies to create an outstanding pedagogical experience.

Inclusive medical training, enabling students and doctors with disability to pursue careers in medicine, The Emergency Department of the Gold Coast University Hospital

Dr. Mohammed Raisuddin, Dr. Shahina Braganza, and Jessica Weatherall

Tertiary education for medical students have been challenging for a long time. Globally, and in Australia, there have been barriers for people with disability who seek a career in medicine. A large part of these barriers are attitudinal.

The emergency department of the Gold Coast University Hospital has long been a lateral-thinking provider of training for medical students and post-graduate doctors seeking specialty training. In 2020, the department was recognised by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) for 'Providing training and support to first quadriplegic medical graduate and intern in Queensland'.

However, the emergency department has also enabled students with disability globally. In 2023, a medical student with a spinal cord injury flew in from the United Kingdom to train in the emergency department thanks to an enabling attitude from the leadership and education team.

The emergency department has also been home to the first graduate of the Emergency Medicine Certificate, with quadriplegia, in Australia. The work of this department not only enables students and postgraduate trainees, but sets a standard for inclusion for hospitals across Australia and overseas.

QUT004 QUT You: Living and Working Collaboratively, Ethically, and Inclusively, Queensland University of Technology

Professor Linda Graham, A/Prof Jenna Gillett-Swan, Lara Maia-Pike

QUT004 aims to make university teaching more inclusive and provide all students with the knowledge and skills they need to be inclusive and to create inclusive societies.​ While digital accessibility and the provision of adjustments are essential, most university subjects do not address the barriers to comprehension created by unnecessary complexity in content, pedagogy, and assessment.

The QUT004 team used accessibility and universal design principles supported by findings from the Accessible Assessment ARC Linkage Project. In designing the content and delivery of this unit,  creators removed unnecessary linguistic and procedural complexity that often creates barriers to student comprehension and learning. Linguistic barriers were removed through the use of clear and concise language. Specialist language was defined using a student-friendly glossary. Procedural barriers were removed through logical sequencing of content, content and task alignment, and tutor and peer feedback on student work before the assignment. Students had access to sequencing resources, such as "Steps for Success" (providing sequential tasks for each week of the unit) and an "Assignment Helper" (a template to guide the structure of the assignment prompts, which students use to demonstrate their learning). Students felt supported and that they could safely engage with the content. Many students felt safe to disclose their disability, gender, sexuality and other identities.

Accessibility Champions Project, Deakin University

Bex Carruthers, Tara Draper, Michael Wright, Lisa Foster, April Bjork, Bec Muir, Mary Rabahi, Mahen Jayawardena, Karen Lake, Pennie White, Bhavya Dhamankar, Ambili Sasidharan, Angie Williamson, Danni Hamilton, Elizabeth Delacretaz, David Eckstein, Ismail Zengin, Nicolas Bennet, Francesca Bussey, Kim Jones, Matthew Griffiths, Puva P Arumugam, Tricia Ong, Kat Cain, Liza Marsh, Shane McIver, Darren Britten

The Accessibility Champions Program (ACP) at Deakin University enhances digital inclusivity and develops accessibility leadership capabilities to support student success and retention. The program is focused towards reducing barriers to participation for all learners through a series of strategically targeted accessibility practices and approaches. The ACP consists of digital accessibility specialists embedded within diverse faculties and portfolios, working in multi-disciplinary partnerships as change agents focused on advocacy and actions that promote a culture of digital inclusion.

The Champions work in a unique distributed leadership model, emphasising ongoing capability-building initiatives and mentoring leadership opportunities for the staff involved. The program also provides annual grants to support the Champion's professional development. It provides mentored opportunities to experience stakeholder and project management, accessibility advocacy, resource development, and promoting digital accessibility concepts university wide.

Equity-First Student as Partners: Students Mentoring Staff, Deakin University

Cassandra Iannucci, Sam Geddes, Lisa Hanna

The Equity-First Students as Partners team at Deakin University created an innovative "Students Mentoring Staff" initiative. This initiative exemplifies a significant contribution to advancing accessibility and promoting inclusive practices within the educational sector. By engaging students as mentors to staff, this program has focused on improving educational practices for students with disability while benefiting all students with more inclusive and responsive teaching methods.

The program facilitates partnerships where students share their unique perspectives and guide staff in creating more accessible learning environments. Key activities include:

  • Direct 1:1 mentorship sessions where students and staff connect, build relationships, and gain insight into their lived experiences.
  • Student mentors educate staff on various accessibility challenges or experiences and ideas for solutions and supports.
  • Opportunities for a collaborative approach to reviewing course materials to maximise inclusive practices and accessibility for students.
  • Collaborative dialogue on practical strategies for enhancing inclusivity in classroom settings.

Artificial Intelligence in Learning and Teaching – an Educator Course, RMIT

Aisha Jirjees Ahmed, Priscilla-Anne Green, Alyce Greenwood, Shona Leitch, Dale Leszczynski, Helen McLean, Nick McIntosh, Michelle Staniczenko and Hilary Wheaton

The higher education sector has been adapting to the implications of generative artificial intelligence technologies on teaching and learning. In response, the Artificial Intelligence in Learning and Teaching course development team created a capability course specifically designed for higher education educators (UDL checkpoint 5.2). The result of the work is a scaffolded accessible course for educators that guides them in the effective use of generative artificial intelligence including to bolster accessibility and inclusion in their teaching methods and student learning. Accessibility and inclusion were fundamental considerations in the planning, development, and execution of this course, that has resulted in the project serving as an outstanding model of good practices and leadership in accessibility.

Embedding accessibility and inclusion using innovative practices, TAFE NSW

Naomi McGrath, John Fardoulis, Kathy Simic, Stephen Belbin, Carla McMillan, Sue Wakefield, Mia Lahey Rudd, Kerrie Hammond, Teresita Eslava, Gail Mercado

To build awareness and embed inclusivity, the Inclusive Design (ID) Team published the TAFE NSW Inclusive Design Standards as an integral part of the TAFE NSW Educational Quality Framework. These standards set requirements and expectations to create and support a welcoming, accessible, flexible, and inclusive learning experience for learners. The TAFE NSW Inclusive Design Standards were developed from extensive research and collaborative consultation to gather feedback and learn from other perspectives and lived experiences. The TAFE NSW Inclusive Design Standards have 5 focus areas: Accessibility, Communication, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Cultural Connection and Usability. The 5 focus areas include 30 standards to guide and achieve inclusivity in curriculum design, development, and delivery. 

Welcome Week - Orientation for Neurodiverse Students, University of Newcastle

Katy Lambert, Georgie Kerr, Katrina Hamal, Dianne Kirby

The Neurodivergent Welcome Week Orientation team developed a responsive and tailored orientation program not just to inform, but connect, neurodiverse students with university supports and offer the opportunity to start building social connection with other Neurodiverse students. A team of four staff, including two AccessAbility Advisors and two Psychologists developed and delivered the event over and above their regular business as usual responsibilities. Pre-armed with early enrolment data, in which students had self-identified as having a disability, our AccessAbility team was able to contact those students earlier in their admissions journey. This led to the development of a bespoke onboarding program to provide a soft entry to the regular welcome week activities.

Building Tiered Support for Neurodivergent Students, Edith Cowan University

Hannah Pickup and Emma Lewin

At ECU, the growth of students who are neurodivergent has been significant, with a 77% increase from 2022 to 2024 to date (Semester 1, 2024 only). Hannah Pickup (Coordinator, Access and Inclusion) and Emma Lewin (Accessibility Adviser, Access and Inclusion) noted the increase in the student population and the limitations of existing one-on-one support. Further, student feedback highlighted gaps in services tailored to the unique challenges neurodivergent students faced when attending University. These insights resulted in Hannah and Emma leading the development of ECU’s tiered student-led community support for neurodivergent students. Hannah and Emma considered the importance of sensory accessibility of the built environment, the value of strengths-based peer support, building connection and community, and, importantly, ensuring supports were available for students studying on campus and online. Informed by work on multi-layered models of support (see for example, Briguglo & Watson, 2014), Hannah and Emma developed a framework for the provision of student support for neurodivergent students at ECU. Recognising the importance of lived expertise, Hannah and Emma also advocated for paid employment for students as part of the tiered support service.

Student Web Uplift, Deakin University

Fiona Greig, Steven Richards, Megan Smith, Cheryl Young, Lauren Gwyn, Abby Smith, Jessica Kalamaris

The Project Team totally transformed the Student Website through this project.

The Students Website project aimed to revolutionise the student web experiences, delivering 100% accessibility compliance for both users and authors. With over 13 million views annually, the Student Website is a vital platform, housing 2,400 pages authored by 350 individuals. Addressing accessibility gaps and governance deficiencies, the project achieved WCAG AA compliance, resolving 2,902 A and 206 AA issues. It established governance frameworks, content standards, and accountability structures while providing comprehensive author training. The outcomes include 100% WCAG AA compliance, PDF accessibility, 20 accessible content tools, and improved external benchmarking. Late last year, the team also assisted in creating accessible content tools for the University Library website, further enhancing the student experience across their entire journey and supporting their colleagues.


Highly Commended

In addition to the winners, two  initiatives were recognised as Highly Commended for their exceptional contributions to accessibility.

Enabling quadriplegic specialist doctor’s training & creating an inclusive precedent, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine

Dr. Dan Halliday, Dr. Matthew French, Dr. Mike Hurley, Dr. Elizabeth Prictor, Dr. David Campbell, Bethany Luxford, Dr. Greg Gladman and the ACRRM team.

The challenges for disability inclusion in medical education have been long-standing and complex. The challenges become more pronounced for the doctors seeking specialty training, a critical step in their career. In specialty training, the attitude of specialist training colleges matter a great deal in enabling the doctors with disability to train. To date, these attitudes have been mixed. The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine enabled a doctor with quadriplegia, Dr. Dinesh Palipana, to pursue specialist training in rural and remote medicine, a first in the country. The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine has set the standard for specialist training colleges to train doctors with disability, an important frontier workforce of the medical system, leading the way by setting a precedent for other colleges.

Hearing Augmentation Over Wi-Fi & valuing students' lived experiences, University of Technology Sydney

Danny Tan, Alex Ruch, Renee Jones, Lucian Sutevski, Liz Penny, Jyoti Di-Cola, Scott Britcher, Karin Senff, Jarad Avnell

Hearing augmentation is a technology that enhances sound clarity for individuals with hearing loss by increasing volume and reducing background noise, ensuring that speech is more intelligible. In teaching rooms, this is crucial as it allows all students, including those with hearing loss, to fully participate and engage in the learning environment, fostering inclusivity and improving educational outcomes. A cross-unit collaboration was formed to proactively improve the student experience, and meet UTS' commitment to social justice and accessibility outlined in the 2027 Strategy, by investigating alternatives such as hearing augmentation over Wi-Fi which is a new technology that enables users to use BYOD (bring your own device). Users can download an app that connects the audio via Bluetooth to hearing aids/implants or via wired headphones.

(May 2024)

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