Disability is a normal part of the human experience with some form of disability affecting 20% of the population or approximately 4 million people in Australia. People with disability come from across the community and are students, teachers, parents, partners, managers, employees, health professionals, artists, sportspeople and more. However, stereotypes and assumptions, often based on misunderstanding or ignorance, frequently contribute to discrimination and unequal treatment of people with disability.
Within post-secondary education, people with disability continue to be identified as a disadvantaged equity group, due to the under representation in accessing, participating and succeeding within higher education in Australia. Within the 15-65 year old age group, only 15% people with disability have a bachelor degree or higher compared to 26% for individuals without disability.1 Currently students with disability represented 5.2% of all domestic undergraduates in 2012, the second consecutive year enrolment has topped 5%.2,3 This is still below the national reference target of their population share of 8%.3
UTS has legal responsibilities as an employer and as an education provider to uphold Australian and NSW law in respect of anti-discrimination in employment, education and provision of goods and services. In particular, UTS must ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students. Key legislation includes:
Commonwealth: Disability Discrimination Act 1992
Disability Standards for Education 2005
NSW: Anti-Discrimination Act, 1977
Disability Discrimination Act, 1992
The Disability Discrimination Act, 1992 (the DDA) says that disability discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably, or not given the same opportunities as others in a similar situation, because of their disability. The disability could be temporary or permanent; a physical, intellectual, sensory, neurological, learning or psychosocial disability; a disease or illness; physical disfigurement; or medical condition or work-related injury.
The DDA also protects people with disability who may be discriminated against because they are accompanied by an assistant, interpreter or reader; or a trained animal such as a guide, hearing or assistance dog; or because they use equipment or an aid, such as a wheelchair, cane or hearing aid.
The DDA makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their disability either:
- by refusing to provide them with goods or services or make facilities available; or
- because of the terms or conditions on which, or the manner in which, the goods, services or facilities are provided.
Discrimination can be direct - meaning a person with disability is treated less favourably than a person without that disability in the same or similar circumstances. An example of possible direct disability discrimination is where a person is refused entry to a cafe because they are blind and have a guide dog.
Discrimination can also be indirect. Indirect disability discrimination can happen when conditions or requirements are put in place that appear to treat everyone the same, but actually disadvantage some people because of their disability. For example, it may be indirect discrimination if the only way to enter a lecture theatre is by a set of stairs, because people who use wheelchairs would be unable to enter that building.
The legislation canvasses what is reasonable and what could be seen as an unjustifiable hardship for the person/organisation providing access. In practice, it is difficult for universities to claim unjustifiable hardship in relation to the cost of providing access.
For more information: A brief guide to the Disability Discrimination Act (Human Rights Commission Website)
Disability Standards for Education 2005
The Disability Standards for Education 2005 elaborate further on the legal obligations of education providers to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students, and set out how education and training are to be made accessible to students with disability. They cover the areas of:
- prospective students;
- curriculum development, accreditation and delivery;
- student support services; and
- elimination of harassment and victimisation
Note: The Disability Standards for Education, and the 2015 review, offer a practical guide which aligns the principles of the Disability Discrimination Act with the educational context.
For more information: Disability Standards in Education (Australian Government Department of Education and Training website)UTS Policies and Plans
UTS Policies and strategies all reflect our obligations under state and federal law. Key policies that are relevant to access and inclusion at UTS are:
- The UTS Equity, Inclusion & Respect Policy;
- The UTS Student Rules;
- Course Related Work Experience Policy;
- Coursework Assessments Policy;
- Handling Staff Grievances Policy;
- Handling Student Complaints Policy;
- Health and Safety Policy;
- Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy;
- The UTS Student Charter; and
- UTS Workplace Adjustment Procedures.
There are also a number of university wide strategies that support the access and inclusion at UTS including:
The Access and Inclusion Plan focuses on four areas:
UTS will enhance the learning experience of students, enriching the accessibility and inclusiveness of enrolment, learning and assessment practices.
UTS will ensure all services, facilities and amenities are inclusive, accessible and optimise the experience of students, staff and visitors to UTS.
UTS will facilitate a diverse and equitable workforce, removing barriers to employment and career development for people with access requirements.
UTS will nurture a culture of inclusiveness and respect, celebrating the value and contributions that people with access requirements make to the University
These strategies are supported by a number of UTS Committees including:
- the Vice Chancellor’s Social Justice and Social Inclusion Committee; and the
- the Accessible Environments Advisory Group.
Employment & Disability
For people with disability, employment means access to the personal, social and financial benefits of work.
For workplaces it means, an increase in diversity, a boost in morale and a fresh perspective they may not have considered. For employers the costs of employing people with disability is as much as 13 per cent lower than for other employees and it also means their organisation better reflects, and can therefore better understand, their customers and clients.
Research also shows that employees with disability are:
• 90 per cent as or more productive
• 98 per cent have average or superior safety records
• 86 per cent have average or superior attendance records
• 19 times more likely to be job satisfied
• 4 times more likely to stay in their role
Research tells us tertiary students with disability can find it more difficult to secure employment opportunities after graduation. 61.5% of students with disability reported being in full-time employment four months after they’d completed their studies. That’s 11% lower than the average statistic for all graduates (72.4%). (Source: 2016-17 Graduate Outcomes Survey, GradStats, February 2018).
UTS Careers is a great source of information and advice around the world of work. They can support students with career consultations, resume reviews, interview techniques, skill development, mentoring and more.
Work Based Learning at UTS
Work Based Learning or Practice Based Learning (WBL) is a key part of many degree programs at UTS and can include clinical placements, professional experience and internships that are completed as part of the course. The main course areas with work based learning requirements at UTS include:
• Nursing and Midwifery
• Teacher Education
• Clinical Psychology, Pharmacy, Orthoptics, Physiotherapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
• Courses with internships, such as Engineering, IT
Students who may need to request adjustments to WBL should ensure they register with the UTS Accessibility Service and any requests for reasonable adjustments for placements/WBL will need to be supported by specific and current documentation from a health professional. For more information, contact the UTS Accessibility Service.
Stepping Into Internships
The Australian Network on Disability (AND)’s Stepping Into program is a paid internship scheme that matches talented university students with disability with roles in leading Australian businesses.
For students, it's a chance to gain vital work experience during study. For businesses, it's a talent pipeline that helps cultivate an inclusive and diverse workplace culture.
Engaging with the Stepping Into program is simple. Students in their last or second last year of study can find out more information at: https://www.and.org.au/pages/information-for-students.html
Support for staff with disabilities
Making your work environment accessible may involve a number of environmental considerations, flexibility of work practices, and specific access requirements addressed in team systems and processes.
Accessibility is not something you can set and forget. Technologies change, new facilities are built, and staff and students with different access requirements join our university. This means accessibility is an on-going agenda and something we constantly need to think about. It is also important to consider that any one of us may not know the specific access requirements of the staff and students we work with, which is why we focus on universal access, safety and respect at UTS.
We can all take a range of simple steps to build accessibility into our business as usual. Small steps go a long way to making UTS accessible for all staff and students in our community.
The UTS Workplace Adjustment Procedures document describes the application process for staff seeking workplace adjustments.
Workplace adjustments can be permanent or temporary and may include:
• provision of adaptive or modified equipment
• job redesign
• modification of a work area or common areas
• training or retraining (yourself or your colleagues)
• changes to a staff member’s work hours
JobAccess is a free workplace and employment information service for employers, people with disability and service providers. JobAccess brings together resources including: a website, dedicated phone service, the Employment Assistance Fund, and the employer engagement team. Through JobAccess, eligible employers can access funding to make minor adjustments to provide an accessible and productive workplace for a person with disability.
JobAccess can assist by providing physical adjustment or assistive technology. Physical adjustments include any change made to the structure, surrounds, or furniture and fittings within a workplace to remove barriers and improve access for people with disability. Most physical changes needed to improve access are minor. Things like moving desks, purchasing ergonomic furniture, or installing brighter lighting. Very occasionally a more significant adjustment might be needed, such as installation of a ramp, automatic door opener, or visual fire alarm.
In the workplace, assistive technology makes tasks that were previously challenging and difficult for some people with disability, far easier. Assistive technology can include screen readers, mobility aids, hearing aids, lifts and moving stairs, sensor-based switches and extendable reaching devices. This technology is often inexpensive and may be eligible for reimbursement through the Employment Assistance Fund.
Staff members with disability mostly know about specific assistive technology that will best suit their needs. However, not everyone will be up to date on the range of equipment available for use in the workplace. Every day, new supports and technology becomes available, through computers, tablets and smartphones. There are many companies and organisations that sell and distribute assistive technologies and these can often change. The best place to start looking for information about communication and assistive technology, is the National Equipment Database, on the Independent Living Centre Australia's website.
For more information about workplace and employment information for people with disability, employers and service providers contact JobAccess on ph: 1800 464 800 or www.jobaccess.gov.au
To seek assistance through JobAccess, you should first find out if you are eligible for the Employment Assistance Fund. It is recommended that you contact JobAccess for a workplace assessment as soon as possible. Their phone number is 1800 464 800, or you can fill in their online enquiry form.
Costs of implementing workplace adjustment, depending on the nature of the adjustment, will usually be funded through:
• JobAccess Employment Assistance Fund
• Faculty or unit budgets, within an agreed budget limit
• UTS Workplace Disability Fund
• Facilities Management Unit minor works program.
However, bear in mind that some workplace adjustments may have no cost, and be simple tools and tricks of human interaction to make the work environment more accessible.
Also, it’s important to remember that workplace adjustment is important to think about in terms of all kinds of disability – those that are visible and those that are not! Whether or however someone with a mental health condition chooses to identify or talk about their situation, exploring and identifying access requirements is part of offering support. JobAccess can also provide assistance with access requirements in relation to mental health.
Note: On Staff Connect there is a Request for Workplace Adjustments form that can be used between staff and supervisors to discuss and sign off on workplace adjustments.
Human Resources Unit is also a good source of support for safety and wellbeing in the workplace.
For more information: Working with a disability or illness (UTS Staff Connect Website)
Supporting Colleagues in the Work Environment
All senior managers have equal opportunity key performance indicators in their role responsibilities. This means that if you are managing a staff member with access requirements, it is important to familiarise yourself with all aspects of accessible environments. If you are working in a team or on a project with staff with access requirements, you may also like to familiarise yourself with the tips in this resource guide.
Note: UTS has an organisation membership to the Australian Network on Disability (AND). This network has a wide range of resources and check lists in the membership area that may be of benefit. Staff of UTS can use the organisational log- in details for the membership area – for our login username and password contact the Equity and Diversity Unit.
For more information: Australian Network on Disability website
Inclusive Learning Environments:
Students have a range of abilities, cultural backgrounds, learning styles and educational needs. UTS aims to support the development and implementation of an inclusive educational environment in which all students - including students with disability - can access, participate and ultimately succeed in university education.
For students with disability, access and inclusion in the social environment and extracurricular activities is equally important.
UTS is committed to equal educational and employment opportunities for all students and staff via clear and transparent selection, progression, assessment and promotion processes. The Student Rules explain that UTS will make reasonable adjustments to coursework and assessment that enable access for students to demonstrate their achievement of relevant learning outcomes while also meeting the inherent requirements.
The UTS Accessibility Service is the University’s central contact point for all students living with one or more disabilities, medical or mental health conditions. The Accessibility Service provides assistance and support to access services, and to make requests for assessment arrangements and reasonable adjustments.
The main purpose of the Accessibility Service is enabling students participation in their learning and coursework. Reasonable adjustments aim to minimise the impacts of disability/health conditions upon study as far as possible, whilst maintaining academic integrity.
While the main focus remains on student's course progression, the Accessibility Service encourages students to take up opportunities for:
- building upon their individual strengths and strategies
- learning how to manage their disabilities/health conditions in the study environment
- preparing for transition following university.
The Accessibility Service assists students to develop their independence, self-determination and self-advocacy skills to enable participation in a productive and concerted way.
The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) provides information, advice and resources to disability practitioners, academics, teachers and students on inclusive practices within the post-secondary education sector in order to facilitate successful outcomes and improve the educational experience for students with disability.
Inclusive Education Principles
Inclusive education refers to the ways in which the UTS creates a meaningful, welcoming and engaging environment for all our students, to facilitate equitable and successful participation. Inclusive education is characterised at UTS by a positive stance towards diversity and difference that anticipates learner variability, recognises diverse strengths, and employs multiple ways of engaging with students. This document describes key inclusive education principles that inform pedagogy, curriculum design and teaching at UTS.
The following Principles have been adapted with kind permission from Principles developed in 2018 by Deakin University’s Inclusive Education Project.
Inclusive practices to apply the principles
1. Recognise and embrace student diversity
Inclusivity means understanding the nature of the diversity of students within any cohort without viewing it as problematic, but rather as a rich educational resource in itself.
- Students will vary in obvious ways, e.g. appearance, language, able-bodiedness, age, race / ethnicity and gender. Other diversities may be less obvious, e.g. career aspirations, motivations for study, learning skills, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, cultural or religious background, health issues and work experiences. Use the unit dashboard’s domestic equity student profile to identify major groups of students in your unit.
- Choose examples, activities and readings that will be relevant to the types of students in your unit, and plan to make the best use of the perspectives diverse students bring
- Encourage students to contribute their own experiences to group work and assignments. The variety of perspectives will enrich all students’ learning.
- Avoid cultural stereotyping; rather, focus on acknowledging the complexity of individuals themselves.
- Design learning experiences to engage all students equitably from the outset, rather than ‘adding on’ adjustments and supports as the need arises.
2. Provide accessible and usable learning resources and environments
All teaching materials, learning activities and learning spaces should be accessible and usable by all students so that no student is disadvantaged.
- Accessibility means making learning experiences user friendly to all students through removing barriers, catering to existing strengths, and promoting clarity, consistency, predictability and flexibility.
- Learning resources and environments should be simple to use, intuitive, and able to accommodate equitably a wide range of abilities, disabilities, ages, and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
- Plain English should be used and any necessary jargon explained.
- Digital accessibility includes describing meaningful images; using appropriate structure; ensuring sufficient colour contrast; not relying on colour to convey meaning; providing informative links; including transcripts, captions and audio description for audio-visual resources; and using resource formats that work with assistive technologies.
3. Design flexible learning experiences
An inclusive education rests on curriculum designed to enable students to gain knowledge and develop proficiency in multiple and flexible ways.
- Give students practicable choices over how, when and where they engage in learning.
- Where possible, provide learning resources in a variety of media such as text, images, infographics, videos and podcasts; with alternative formats available for critical items.
- Use learning activities that provide scope for students to engage meaningfully with ideas that are relevant to their aims and interests.
4. Represent diversity in the curriculum
Learning resources and activities should reflect the diversity of the wider community.
- Students of all types need to see themselves mirrored in the curriculum, not be invisible in that which is read, discussed, written about and assessed. Design / choose examples, images, case studies, texts and assessments representing the legitimacy and contributions within the discipline of people with a wide range of cultures, ethnic groups, religions, abilities, geographical locations, genders and sexual orientations.
- Work towards embedding Indigenous knowledges and perspectives in courses across the university.
- Allow students to contribute readings and topics that reflect their lived experience.
- Written and spoken language should reflect diversity by using gender-neutral pronouns (‘they’ instead of ‘he’ and ‘she’).
- Classrooms and discussion forums need to provide safe places for critical discussion of diversity issues that arise in the context.
- It is preferable to embed a diverse view of society across whole courses, but a first step may be to introduce weekly topics on diversity issues (though this needs to be done in a way that avoids overt tokenism, which will result in reinforcing the assumption that the male, white, middle-class person is the norm and other identities are ‘other’).
5. Scaffold underpinning knowledge and skills
Learning activities and resources should scaffold students’ development of necessary underpinning competencies.
- Explain and model academic skills such as academic reading and writing using the conventions and language of the discipline.
- Provide tasks to develop students’ academic study skills, such as time management, research planning and referencing.
- Examples of scaffolding techniques include optional guides and demonstrations on how to use e-learning technologies, glossaries, step-by-step activity guides, annotated readings and example assessments. These are critical in early stages of study.
- Point students to university information and support services including: HELPS drop-in sessions for students (you can find the schedule for drop-in sessions on the website or contact HELPS 9514-9733); UTS Counselling Service and UTS Accessibility Service (9514-1177); or UTS Library 9514-3666)
6. Build a community of learners
All students should be welcomed and supported as part of a respectful, vibrant learning community.
- Regular dialogue, interaction and collaboration should be encouraged through regular discussions and supported group activities. Interaction with teachers and peers can occur across a variety of platforms and modalities, depending on the curriculum, study mode and the needs of students.
- Make efforts to get to know students as individuals and develop a salient presence in the community (whether physical or virtual). For example, be available and approachable; and use clear, consistent and encouraging communications.
- To foster a respectful culture, establish a class code of conduct or protocols to ensure safe spaces of interaction, and model respectful interactions, including conflict and disagreement resolution techniques where relevant.
7. Assess equitably
Inclusive assessment means creating assessment activities that allow all students to show they can meet the necessary standards.
- Use a variety of assessment methods that enable students to demonstrate their achievement of intended learning outcomes via a range of modes.
- Assessment tasks should not favour students with particular characteristics not relevant to the task.
- Be prepared to adjust tasks where necessary to ensure that learners with diverse characteristics can demonstrate achievement of a standard in a different way.
- Describe tasks in plain English with clear, concise marking criteria; and provide scaffolding activities and resources such as step-by-step guides and example assessments where necessary.
- Staged assessments that break a large task into parts with feedback input provided well before the final submission can help students develop underpinning skills before high-stakes assessment.
- Authentic, meaningful tasks where students have some capacity to choose between topics—or suggest their own—can help students engage optimally in assessment tasks.
8. Feedback effectively
Effective feedback offers constructive, personalised, specific, accurate, criterion-referenced, commentary on students’ work which is oriented to students improving the quality of their work.
- Feedback can be effective whether the work is presented in set formative or summative tasks, or in seminar-based learning activities.
- Feedback should be timely and focused particularly on early tasks in a unit.
- It should target key aspects upon which students need to focus further and where they need to adjust their learning strategies.
- The mode of feedback used (e.g. written, verbal) may need to be varied to accommodate different student characteristics.
- All students should be taught how to elicit, interpret and use feedback information to best effect, to improve their future performance.
9. Reflect on and evaluate practice
Reflective practice helps teachers recognise where potential to exclude or disadvantage some students exists, and assess the effectiveness of strategies to teach more inclusively.
- Regularly pause to evaluate your teaching practices, using self-reflection in a journal, student feedback, analysis of students’ grades, peer review of one’s teaching/learning designs or formal professional development opportunities.
- Examine the assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and values you bring to teaching tasks, and consider how these may impact on specific students’ learning and participation.
- Imagine how students with particular characteristics you wouldn’t normally anticipate in your unit cohort would perform—this could pre-empt the need for later just-in-time adjustments.
- Reflection and evaluation are not ends in themselves, but should aim to continually improve the equitability of the learning experience one provides to all students.
Note: These principles were developed by Dr Janet Watson and Dr Mary Dracup, Deakin University Equity & Diversity Unit Inclusive Education Project and have been amended with permission. They incorporate findings from key pieces of research in this area including the Universal Design for Learning (CAST 2018) framework, Hockings’ (2010) Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education: a synthesis of research, Devlin et al’s (2012) Effective teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, and Stone’s (2017) ‘Opportunity through online learning’ national guidelines.
UTS is committed to creating an equitable and inclusive environment for people with diverse abilities. Our objective for this site is to provide as far as possible the same experience for all.
The UTS website has been developed using guidelines incorporating the recommendations of the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the accepted worldwide standard.
To assist some readers to navigate the site, each page contains:
- a skip to content link, to move directly to the beginning of the page content
This website is best viewed with Internet Explorer 11+ and the latest versions of Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. Consider upgrading your browser if you are using an older technology.
We are committed to continuous improvement of the accessibility of our digital content but if you have any questions or comments, or if you are having problems please contact the Web Platforms and Strategy Team.
The Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion in cooperation with the UTS Accessibility Service have recruited a student advisory committee – the Access Ambassadors – who can provide support and user testing for new IT products and projects. Please contact the Equity & Diversity Unit for more information.
Events, Training and Meetings:
The Access Guidelines for UTS Events and Training Sessions (67 KB, PDF) and Accessible Events and Training checklist (74 KB, PDF) aim to help you plan a more inclusive event by taking into account the needs of people with disability who may be attending.
As part of our commitment to creating a sustainable and socially just society, UTS runs a series of training programs for our staff to increase awareness and build leadership capacity. For information about disability related current training opportunity go to https://www.uts.edu.au/partners-and-community/initiatives/social-justice-uts/equity-and-diversity-uts/training-and or contact UTS Diversity & Inclusion Training Coordinator Arif Ongu at Arif.Ongu@uts.edu.au who can help organise training and development specially designed for your work area.
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012). Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings 2012. Cat. no. 4430.0. Accessed on 28 November 2014. Sourced from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/E82EBA276AB693E5CA257C21000E5013?opendocument
2 Naylor, R., Baik, C., & James, R. (2013). Developing a Critical Interventions Framework for advancing equity in Australian higher education. Discussion paper prepared for the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Centre for the Study of Higher Education, Melbourne: The University of Melbourne. Accessed on 28 November 2014. Sourced from (19/10/15 https://www.ncsehe.edu.au/publications/critical-interventions-framework/)
3 Koshy, P. (2014). Student Equity Performance in Australian Higher Education: 2007 to 2012. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Perth: Curtin University. Accessed on 28 November 2014. Sourced from http://www.ncsehe.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Student-Equity-Performance-in-Australian-Higher-Education-2007-to-2012-FINAL_V2.pdf