Getting the assistance you need at uni can be a difficult and complex process for a student with disability. Some of the barriers that you may need to work around include logistical difficulties, uninformed attitudes and/or inaccessible bureaucratic processes.
These tips may be useful:
- Start your preparations early. Arranging disability supports at uni can take a long time.
- Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions about the types of assistance you're entitled to and how to access them.
- Be clear about your requirements. Once you understand what adjustments you need, ask for assistance in very specific terms.
- Be assertive. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) means that unis are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your disability and give you an equal opportunity to access uni life. For more information see 'Know your rights' and 'Know your responsibilities' below.
- Be reasonable. Behaving aggressively and inappropriately towards uni staff and others will only exacerbate the problems and make it less likely that a useful solution will be reached.
- Be open to negotiation and creative solutions. Stay focused on the most important outcome: that is to create ways for you to be able to succeed at uni! Do whatever you can to make the solutions happen.
- If you feel you are not getting the assistance you need from the uni then it is important to let them know. You can do this by undertaking the following steps:
- Talk with the Disability Liaison Officer.
- If you are still unhappy, find out what the uni complaints procedures are and lodge a complaint.
- If this is not satisfactory, you may complain to an outside agency, such as the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Know your rights
Getting to know your rights at uni will help you to understand your entitlements as a student with disability. Being informed about your rights also helps to know what is reasonable to expect from the uni.
- Get familiar with the uni's student handbook. This will help you to know the general rights (and responsibilities) of all students. See the uni website for information on the student handbook or ask the Student Union or DLO.
- Gain a basic understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) (DDA) and how it relates to your rights as a student with disability for protection against discrimination at uni. This will help you to recognise the uni's responsibilities. In general each uni is obliged to take into account your disability and to make adjustments wherever it is necessary, possible and reasonable to do so to lessen the impact of your disability on your success and participation at uni.
- The Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards) clarify the obligations of education and training providers and seek to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students.
- Find out about the uni obligations to treat details of your disability and other personal information as private and confidential. When deciding whether to disclose your disability to the uni it is important to know your rights to have this information protected and treated with respect. See our website Choosing your Path. Disclosure: it's a personal decision for more information about telling unis about your disability.
Know your responsibilities
Understanding your responsibilities, as well as your rights, is essential to help you make a smooth and successful transition from school to uni. Many of the requirements of you as a uni student will be different compared to those at school.
- Think about the differences between school and uni and how this will change your responsibilities as a student. The guiding principle is that as a uni student you are now responsible for completing the required coursework and for asking for assistance if your disability affects your ability to do so. See 'What's the difference' fact sheet on differences between school, VET and university for further information about this.
- Check out the uni's student handbook to find out what the uni expects of students in relation to participation at uni and requirements for course completion and graduation.
- Keep in mind that the disability legislation does not require unis to relax standards, ignore essential requirements of a course, pass someone who has not deserved a pass or give a student with disability any unfair advantage.
- When seeking adjustments or other assistance from the uni, remember that it is your responsibility to inform the uni staff in advance and do so in a reasonable manner. Unis are not obliged to tolerate unreasonable or aggressive behaviour.