Content warning: Sexual assault and harassment, ableism.
All Means All has joined the National Union of Students (NUS), the Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA), the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), the Grace Tame Foundation and more than thirty bodies including its Co-Convenor on the ACIE Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education, Children and Young People People with Disability Australia (CYDA), as well as other ACIE member organisations such as Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and other disability sector leaders such as People with Disability Australia (PWDA), National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), to demand the higher education sector to take strong measures to address discrimination experienced by people with disability in Australia.
The joint position statement and research report — titled ‘Disability & Higher Education in Australia’ — leverages case studies, stakeholder consultations, and interdisciplinary research to scrutinise and investigate the extent of structural ableism within Australia’s higher education sector and to highlight the urgency of the need for systemic reform: discrimination facing disabled staff and students are noted to be systemic, with only 17 per cent of disabled Australians attaining a Bachelor’s degree compared with 35 per cent of non-disabled Australians.
The joint position statement and research report also addresses the need to reform Australia’s broken anti-discrimination laws that are failing to ensure students with disability are able to access reasonable adjustments and reasonable accommodations and are enabling universities to avoid compliance with those laws with little to no consequences.
Other issues reported in the joint position statement and research report include rescheduling of classes on short notice, inaccessible classrooms and inconsistent policies on assistance animals — as well as heightened rates of sexual assault and harassment and vilification against disabled people on campuses.
“The National Student Safety Survey showed Disabled students were more than twice as likely to experience SASH on campus, consistent with the numbers seen through the Disability Royal Commission,” said NUS Disabilities Officer Georgie McDaid. “This is a duty of care problem, and it’s simply not good enough.”
Among calls to action in the report is a request that the Albanese Government should raise the level of financial support offered by AUSTUDY, ABSTUDY and the Disability Support Pension above the Henderson Poverty Line, as well as undertaking urgent reform of Australia’s anti-discrimination laws — especially the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Commonwealth).
The research report is also calling upon government bodies — such as the Australian Human Rights Commission — to conduct investigations into structural ableism and sexual assault and harassment on university campuses experienced by disabled students.
“Our higher education system is physically locking out students barring them from opportunities,” said NUS President Georgie Beatty.
Action is long overdue and the higher education sector must now listen, reflect and take action to ensure meaningful access to education and opportunity.
“The current legislation is negatively impacting student wellbeing,” said ALSA President Annabel Biscotto.
“Enough is enough. It is time that students with disabilities feel as comfortable and accommodated within the classroom as their neurotypical peers,” said ALSA Vice President (External) Theo Totsis. “Denying us such liberties causes us to spiral and suffocate. Even I, being in my 6th year and diagnosed with autism and ADHD 18 years ago, have still not been made to feel otherwise.”
Click here or the image below to download the Disability & Higher Education Report and Recommendations in Australia in PDF.
Click here to download in Word format.
Australian Law Students’ Association
+61 400 206 011 | email@example.com | https://alsa.asn.au
National Union of Students
+61 411 606 808 | firstname.lastname@example.org | https://nus.asn.au