Disability Access and Inclusion Plan 2021-2024 - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Disability Access and Inclusion Plan 2021-2024

Message from the Vice-Chancellor and President

I am delighted to share with you the Disability Access and Inclusion: USC’s Action Plan 2021-2024 (DAIP), which demonstrates our ongoing commitment to creating an equitable, accessible and inclusive environment for all students, staff and the wider University community.

The first USC Disability Action Plan was developed in 1999 and has been regularly reviewed and updated since that time. USC’s DAIP (2021-2024) was developed in consultation with key stakeholders, including a co-design working group of students with lived experience of disability. Based on this consultation, the title was changed from ’Disability Action Plan’ to ‘Disability Access and Inclusion: USC’s Action Plan’, to emphasise that inclusion should extend to all members of the community, regardless of ability or disability.

USC’s new DAIP builds on and expands the achievements of our previous plans. Some of these key achievements include:

  • growth each year in the participation rate of students with disabilities, with the number of students who indicated on enrolment they have a disability increasing 30 per cent between 2015 and 2019
  • universal design principles are now included and embedded into the workflows for online learning content development
  • inherent academic requirements have been published for all existing programs USC website and USC Intranet sites have been reviewed and enhanced to improve the accessibility of USC’s digital environment
  • the University Specialist Employment Partnership (USEP) was introduced in 2020 and the employment outcomes for students with disabilities improved by 1.7% in 2021
  • Web accessibility training resources have been made available for staff
  • information has been provided to students about free adaptive technologies available to support their learning; and
  • USC has improved the portrayal of diversity in our university marketing materials.

USC’s refreshed DAIP aligns with our values as articulated in the USC Strategic Plan 2021-2024. The DAIP affirms USC’s commitment to the principles of universal design reflected in our built environments and IT services, as well as in our curriculum, teaching practices, learning materials and university processes and services. Our DAIP commits to:

  • advocate for equitable access to education and knowledge
  • recognise and embrace diversity and inclusion
  • respect our people, our communities, and their potential
  • strive for excellence and innovation in all that we do.

As we pursue our vision to be Australia’s premier regional university, the DAIP is a significant and important guiding document that reflects what is uniquely USC, and our aim to ensure equity and inclusion for people with disability.

Professor Helen Bartlett
Vice-Chancellor and President

USC’s Action Plan is guided by our Strategic Plan and the Diversity and Inclusion Plan to ensure that we are consistently articulating and meeting our commitment to equity, access and inclusion for people with disability.

Table of contents
Introduction

USC’s Action Plan is guided by our Strategic Plan and the Diversity and Inclusion Plan to ensure that we are consistently articulating and meeting our commitment to equity, access and inclusion for people with disability. This Plan will guide our actions in coming years, and is strongly led and influenced by principles of universal design. The student co-design group and those with lived experience of disability have been key stakeholders, contributors and reviewers in developing the Plan, and will continue to be influential in subsequent reviews of the Plan.

This Plan aims to provide guidance on how USC will seek to ensure positive outcomes for students, staff and our community, particularly in employability, research and representation across levels of the institution. In order to remain responsive and contemporary, the Plan will undergo regular review with a strong focus on the implementation and reporting mechanisms.

This Plan reflects USC’s strong institutional commitment to disability access and inclusion and commitment to ensuring that the Plan is owned and known by everyone at USC.

This Plan is mapped against the Guiding Principles for Universities of Good Practice to Support Retention and Success of Students with Disability[1]. The Plan is also influenced by the biopsychosocial model of disability and acknowledges the complex impacts of intersectionality.

Introduction to terminology
Disability

The University of the Sunshine Coast recognises the legal definition of disability, as defined in the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, or impairment, as described in the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991. In both instruments, this encompasses temporary or permanent physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, and neurological and learning disabilities and the presence in the body of organisms causing, or capable of causing, disease. It also includes a disability that presently exists, existed in the past, or may exist in the future, as well as a disability that is imputed or presumed to a person.

Reasonable adjustments

Alternative arrangements or modifications are important for ensuring equal access to employment or education for people with disabilities. The University is required by law to make reasonable adjustments for staff or prospective staff with disabilities to ensure equity in areas such as job applications, interview processes and the capacity to meet the inherent requirements of a position. The University is also obliged to make reasonable adjustments for students with a disability to enable them to equitably participate in courses or programs wherever necessary and reasonable to do so without affecting the essential academic requirements of a course and to use the University facilities and services on the same basis as other students. Adjustments might, for example, include provision of adaptive equipment or software, changing course delivery or assessment procedures, or modification of premises.

Universal design  

Universal design is the process of designing products and environments to be usable to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of age, life status, ability of disability, without the need for adaptation or specialised design[1].

USC aims to embed universal design thinking into our built environments and IT environments, as well as in our curriculum, teaching practices, instructional materials and in all university processes and services.

Principles of universal design: 

  1. Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use – Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible Information – The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error – The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  6. Low Physical Effort – The design minimises hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  7.  Size and Space for Approach and Use – Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.
Progress and achievements

USC launched its five-year Disability Action Plan in 2015 and it was subsequently reviewed to cover 2020. Achievements include: 

Action plan

The outcomes stated in this Plan will guide the actions USC takes. Each outcome area and subsequential actions align to one or more of the goals outlined in USC’s Strategic Plan. It is acknowledged that USC’s inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Plan will guide and influence further DAIP outcomes and actions. This DAIP will be revised as necessary to ensure consistency with the Diversity and Inclusion Plan.

Outcome 1: USC will maintain recognition as a provider of choice for students. It will do so by applying the student lifecycle model, developing strategies and procedures for recruitment and outreach, student life, and employability. USC will ensure high quality teaching, learning and graduate outcomes.

Supporting USC’s Strategic Goals:

  • Opportunity - Inspire more people to achieve their ambitions through education
  • Employability - Enable more people work, contribute and innovate in their local and global communities
Actions Responsibility Timeframes
Recruitment and all Tier 1 Student Central staff will be aware of inherent academic requirements for programs, and availability of AccessAbility services, so that prospective students can make informed choices. The recruitment and enrolment process will be accessible and welcoming to all students.

Director, Marketing and External Engagement; Director Student Services and Engagement; Director Office of Engagement; Head of International

December 2021 
Learning Access Plans (LAPs) will be developed in collaboration with students and will include inclusive teaching strategies and assessment adjustments. They will be equitable, reliable, and robust, exemplifying best practice. LAP’s will be given to staff as required and with student’s permission. Director, Student Services and Engagement  December 2021 

USC students will have access to inclusive, current, and innovative learning delivery systems. Academic staff will design curricula (including assessment) that is accessible, flexible and based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning.

Director, C-SALT  December 2021 
Embed diversity and inclusion content in curriculum, including disability awareness content, to enhance students’ understanding of the diverse needs of all students. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) December 2022 
USC will provide inclusive wellbeing programs, with focus on self-management, resilience, and social inclusion. Director, Student Services and Engagement; Director, People and Culture December 2022 
Students with a disability are able to access USC equitable and inclusive extra-curricular activities (including sport, recreation, volunteering, social engagement and international study). Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)  December 2022 
Development of a “Students with lived experience disability group” in the Student Senate to ensure robust representation. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)  December 2021 
Strategies will be developed and implemented to ensure that students are aware of their rights and responsibilities, are supported in providing feedback. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)  December 2021 
Students with a disability will have access to high quality careers and employability resources. Director, Student Services and Engagement  December 2021 
Enhance academic staff capacity through induction training and regular professional development on issues impacting USC’s disability community, including the use of LAPs, staff obligations and responsibilities, inherent academic requirements and where to go to for further information. Academic staff will understand reasonable adjustments, equitable assessment processes, universal design, and the use of assistive technology. Relevant information and training resources for academic staff will be available on the USC website. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)  December 2021

 

Outcome 2:  USC will partner with all research programs to encourage growth of USC’s disability community’s presence, and to maintain awareness of disability issues.

Supporting USC’s Strategic Goal:

  • Research Impact - Produce research outcomes that make a difference.
Actions Responsibility Timeframes
Research projects will ensure disability issues (including but not limited to: access and participation, and research focussed on and central to disability) are considered throughout the process of design, implementation, and publication Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) December 2023
Higher degree by research program opportunities will be accessible and inclusive of USC’s disability community. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) December 2023
USC will ensure that research development is inclusive of the disability community and their lived experience. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) December 2023

 

Outcome 3: USC will design and implement strategies and procedures to ensure accessibility and inclusion across all campuses.

Supporting USC’s Strategic Goal:

  • Infrastructure - Build a contemporary, sustainable, accessible university.
Actions Responsibility Timeframes
USC will welcome the disability community by complying with legislation and embedding universal design to ensure accessible, inclusive, and safe campuses. Input will be sought from USC’s disability community during all stages of development, and at regular intervals after to ensure continuity of access. General Manager, Capital and Commercial  December 2022
All teaching and working spaces will ensure that there is adequate provision of accessible equipment, accessible furniture, accessible technology, and specialised spaces. Director, Facilities Management December 2022
IT staff will complete web accessibility training. USC will maintain WCAG2.1 AA when acquiring and/or designing web or internet-facing digital capabilities. Accessibility of corporate applications (e.g. student, academic and other portals) will be regularly monitored and immediately improved when updates become available. Best practice for universal design will be embedded within all systems wherever possible. Procurement of new systems will include web accessibility as a requirement. Director, Information Technology December 2022
Accessibility maps will be available on the USC website, and updated annually or as required. Maps will be updated with input from USC’s disability community. General Manager, Capital and Commercial December 2021

 

Outcome 4: USC will maintain recognition as an employer of choice. It will do so by developing strategies and procedures to offer all staff employment and professional development opportunities in an inclusive and accessible environment.

Supporting USC’s Strategic Goal:

  • People and Culture - Become a workplace of choice.
Actions Responsibility Timeframes
USC will implement a recruitment and employment strategy that will boost employment of people with a disability, support staff within the disability community, and ensure staff within the disability community continue to be afforded the same rights and opportunities as their peers. Staff will be encouraged to participate in extra-curricular and extension programs when relevant, and USC will ensure best practice for accessibility in these areas. Director, People and Culture December 2023
USC’s staff and general community will understand that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated, and aware of processes available to them if required. Director, People and Culture December 2022

 

Outcome 5: USC will present leadership to the wider community by developing, implementing and continually improving an accessible and inclusive university community.

Supporting USC’s Strategic Goals:

  • Engagement - Empower communities to thrive through dynamic and productive partnerships
  • Infrastructure - Build a contemporary, sustainable, accessible university.
Actions Responsibility Timeframes
USC will develop and launch this plan, build mechanisms to gain greater awareness of this plan at implementation and during its lifecycle, report and implement achievements online, acquire feedback, and update as necessary. This plan will be ongoing and effective. It will be a guiding document as to who we are, and what we want to achieve. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students), Chief Operating Officer December 2021 
Each department area called to action within this plan will develop its own audit process to ensure constant and improved outcomes. All December 2021 
Review Diversity and Inclusion Award to ensure achievements related to disability are recognised. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement)/Chair, VC&P Equity and Diversity Committee December 2022 
USC will review existing mentoring programs (alumni and peer) to ensure they are meeting the needs of the student and graduate disability community. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) December 2022 

 

Outcome 6: USC will be persistent in maintaining solid relationships with the wider community.

Supporting USC’s Strategic Goal:

  • Engagement - Empower communities to thrive through dynamic and productive partnerships
Actions Responsibility Timeframes
USC will develop and maintain relationships with external organisations and stakeholders in order to leverage resources, and for the provision of continuing current legislation, theories and approaches. Staff will be trained and supported, and processes will be designed and implemented, for incorporating universal design principles into public consultations. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement), Chair VC&P Equity and Diversity Committee, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic), Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) December 2023
USC’s disability community will be consulted in all areas where accessibility and disability issues are being targeted. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) December 2023
Implementation, reporting and review 

Implementation of the DAIP requires a university-wide response where everyone in the USC community has a role to play.

Leadership is required across all levels to ensure robust implementation of the Plan. The successful implementation of the Plan will require intentional actions that shape inclusive practice across the University on a daily basis, as well as addressing barriers. We need to be responsive to ever-changing contexts and emerging issues that impact on individuals, the University and the wider community.

The Vice-Chancellor and President’s Equity and Diversity Committee will have overall responsibility for monitoring the implementation and review of the Plan. The Committee brings together representatives from Executive, Senior Management, Diversity Units, Student Representative Council Members and academic staff and ensures representation from all USC campuses.

Summary of relevant legislation

Our Disability Access and Inclusion Plan is informed by specific International, Commonwealth and Queensland legislation outlined below: 

United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (2006) 

The Convention adopts a broad categorisation of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) 

The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) makes discrimination against people on the grounds of disability unlawful in specific areas of public life. These include the workplace, accommodation, education, access to premises, clubs and sport, and in the provision of goods, facilities, services and land. The DDA prohibits discrimination against any person, or their associates, on the grounds of actual or assumed disability. This has implications for both employment and education.

The Disability Standards for Education 2005 

The Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards) is subordinate legislation under the DDA. The Standards specifically articulate the obligations of education and training providers under the DDA and the rights of people with disabilities when undertaking education and training in areas of: 

  • enrolment 
  • participation 
  • curriculum development, accreditation and delivery 
  • student support services, and 
  • elimination of harassment and victimisation.

The Standards confirm that education providers are required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that students with disabilities are able to participate in education on the same basis as other students, with equal opportunity to realise their individual potential.

The Disability (Access to Premises - buildings) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards) 

The Disability (Access to Premises - buildings) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards) are sub-legislation to the DDA and are applicable to any building refurbishment or new construction undertaken by the University.

The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991  

The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 also clearly identifies obligations on the part of the University to eliminate all forms of discrimination against people with impairment (disability1).

The Human Rights Act 2019 (QLD) 

The Human Rights Act 2019 (QLD) came into effect on January 1, 2020. The Act protects 23 human rights. Public entities must uphold these rights when they make decisions, create laws, set policies and provide services. The main objects of the Act are to:  

  • protect and promote human rights;  
  • help build a culture in the Queensland public sector that respects and promotes human rights; and help promote a dialogue about the nature, meaning and scope of human rights.
Glossary

Legal definitions of disability: 

Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Commonwealth) 

Disability, in relation to a person, means – 

  1. total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions; or 
  2. total or partial loss of a part of the body; or 
  3. the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or 
  4. the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or 
  5. the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body; or 
  6. a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or 
  7. a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perceptions of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in a disturbed behaviour; 

and includes a disability that: 

  1. presently exists; or 
  2. previously existed but no longer exists; or 
  3. may exist in the future (including because of a genetic predisposition to that disability); or 
  4. is imputed to a person.
Notes

[1] Kilpatrick, S., Johns, S., Barnes, R., McLennan, D., Fischer, S. & Magnussen, K. (2016). Exploring the Retention and Success of Students with Disability. Report submitted to the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Curtin University: Perth.

[1] The Center for Universal Design (1997). The Principles of Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University.