Published on 11 August 2016
A 60 percent increase in the number of students with disabilities at the University of the Sunshine Coast since 2011 has prompted ongoing innovations to improve access for everyone seeking a USC degree.
Semester 1, 2016 figures showed that 691 students indicated they had a disability in the categories of medical, learning, mental health, vision, hearing or mobility, compared to 435 students in 2011.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill said these students deserved every opportunity to pursue their education goals and enjoy university life.
“From new staff to new technologies, USC has been introducing measures across its learning and teaching practices as well as campus facilities,” he said.
Digital developer Corey Collins, who in 2014 was hired as USC’s first adaptive technologies specialist, said it was rewarding to find ways to address the needs of individual students, particularly those with complex disabilities.
Corey, who now focuses on increasing the accessibility of USC’s web-based content, said mobile phones and computers had revolutionised how people gained information but students with disabilities often required extra tools.
“I’m passionate about working out how to integrate technologies and content to cater for individual disabilities, so people can study as independently as they want to,” said the specialist from USC’s Student Wellbeing division.
“For example, adapting content for a computer screen reader may be as vital to a blind student’s learning as changing building design for a student who’s a wheelchair user.”
Corey, who is among the staff and students featured in the ‘Making Dreams Happen’ chapter of USC’s 20th anniversary celebration book ‘Visions’, recently worked with second-year Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology student Joseph Davies.
Joseph, who was born deaf, said USC’s provision of “live transcripts” had greatly enhanced his experience in lectures as he pursued a career path as a system analyst.
“I rely on lip-reading during conversations, which means it’s difficult to understand what is being spoken during lectures because the lecturer needs to be constantly moving, referring to slides or notes and engaging the entire audience,” said Joseph, who moved to Australia from Canada five years ago.
“The same thing goes for workshops because there can be multiple conversations going on.
“At USC I receive live captions on my smartphone during lectures so I don’t miss anything and can still participate in any Q&A sessions.
“In some workshops I use an interpreter, which also allows me to focus on practical tasks and processing information rather than just keeping track of what’s being said.”
Joseph, who is treasurer of the Rotaract Club of the Sunshine Coast, said volunteering with the USC Student Guild had also contributed to his enjoyment of student life.
USC’s disability support services include Braille signage, note-takers or scribes, negotiating assessment adjustments, alternative formatting of course materials, and a respite room. There are disability advisers on all its campuses. Prospective students can call 5430 1226.
— Julie Schomberg