Spoon Week is about promoting understanding of the experiences of people with disabilities, and starting conversations with the wider community about how society perceives and responds to disability. During this Spoon Week, we’re being asked to listen, learn, and take action.
Take action on what?
This may not be obvious to the average student, but there are a number of obstacles for students with disabilities at the ANU. Even when fantastic services such as Access & Inclusion, the Counselling Centre, or Batyr do their jobs to the best of their ability, they may be hampered by a lack of coherent policy or poor resourcing from the university. There are a number of unique problems that are specific to these issues, but what is common is a lack of planning on the part of the university.
It’s a refrain that your lecturer or tutor has probably said before: ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’ I can’t claim to be a particularly excellent planner, nor would most students, but I think even the most procrastinatory of us would recognise that planning is a good thing to do. It might shock you then that for the last four years, the ANU has failed to create a Disability Action Plan (DAP).
A Disability Action Plan is a document written up by an institution (like ANU) that outlines how it plans to eliminate discrimination against people with disability. It’s a physical commitment to equality, and a practical measure that outlines what improvements can be made, timelines for those improvements, as well as who’s responsible.
Make no mistake: when students are put through the wringer to get reasonable adjustments, or they’re unable to see a counsellor in a timely manner, it has a real effect on their education that’s discriminatory.
Whilst parts of the university are trying their best to make the university experience more accessible, it doesn’t make up for the fact that there’s very little in the way of long term planning and coordination across the university.
Out of all the Group of Eight universities – that is, Australia’s top research universities – ANU is the only one that does not have a DAP. This is not because other universities are better than we are, or because they possess resources we do not have. Prior to the last DAP’s expiry, ANU wrote and actioned four consecutive DAPs. We are just as capable of writing one, what is lacking is the will to do so.
Students with disability deserve a university that takes action on discrimination, not one that just talks about equity and accessibility. On Monday, May 2 we’re launching our petition to ask to the university to take action, and create a Disability Action Plan. If you believe that university should be an accessible experience for everyone, please sign it and help us spread the world.
Tom Kesina is the ANUSA Disabilities Officer, and helps run the ANU Disabilities Student Association. For more information, here