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April 26, 2010 | by  | in News |
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They’re Doing it Right

Disability Services Do Good

Victoria University has come out looking favourable in a recent report released by CCS Disability Action and Workbridge.

The Journey to Work report concluded disabled young people are not receiving enough support in New Zealand’s education system and are twice as likely to leave school without a qualification as young non-disabled people.

The research outlines the need for an inclusive education policy and recommends that targets are set to measure and increase the number of young disabled people achieving in NCEA.

The report found the numbers of disabled students attending either universities or polytechnics decreased in 2006 from 2001.

Victoria was noted as an institution going against the trend, with increasing enrolment numbers of disabled students who have come either directly from school, or soon after.

The report states this increase may be due to greater expectation of inclusion, more marketing and better support.

Victoria’s Acting Director in Student Academic Services Gerard Hoffman says that there has been a 27 per cent increase in enrolments of students identifying themselves as having a disability.

Hoffman says this increase is due to a number of factors.

“Victoria Disability Services has a solid reputation, built up through strong leadership for a number of years. Effective use of funding over the years has allowed us to develop services and the reputation of the organisation.”

Hoffman says part of the increase can also be attributed to a change in the enrolment process, making it easier for students to choose to identify themselves as having a disability.

He also cites a recent rebrand as having an effect on numbers.

“Disability Services underwent a rebrand about a year ago that shifted the focus of support for an individual student to inclusion in the university.”

The Disability Services website states the service’s by-line “Access and Inclusion” involves providing students access to support and services “that are congruent with their disability-related need” and leading “Victoria towards becoming a fully inclusive tertiary education institution”.

Hoffman says part of the rebrand has resulted in a culture change at the university. 

“It’s a shift towards better teaching practices for all students. The use of Blackboard to load lecture notes, resources and even recordings of lectures is beneficial to all students.

“Disability Services staff contact every course co-ordinator over Summer to catalogue what resources will be used in the course. This allows the staff to create a database that helps students assess what they might require to help them in that course.”

Hoffman says another major influence on the increasing numbers is the raising public awareness of disabilities and the level of acceptance in society.

“There has been a shift in society that has resulted in a decreased stigma attached to mental illnesses, a recognised disability. People are less likely to think there is no benefit in identifying their disability, and are more likely to welcome the support Disability Services can provide.”

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