Charles Sturt University conducts study in regional universities and people with disabilities

CREATE PATHWAYS: Wodonga mother and disability advocate Jen Tait with son Alec. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
CREATE PATHWAYS: Wodonga mother and disability advocate Jen Tait with son Alec. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

People with a disability are devalued by a presumption they won’t attend university, believes Wodonga disability advocate and mother Jen Tait. 

Ms Tait of Employment Circles of Support welcomed a Charles Sturt University study into why so few people with a disability attend university regionally. 

“Having meaningful access to a tertiary education is a life changer,” she said.

“Education offers more than learning – it leads to economic participation, social participation, higher income, higher status job roles and roles in the community. 

“This in turn begins to address the traditional devaluing and undervaluing of people with a disability.”

A Wodonga Latrobe University student, who wished to remain unnamed, said the tertiary provider had catered to her individual needs but there were still challenges for people entering university.

“My personal experience has been wonderful,” she said.

“La Trobe offers various support, software and assistance to meet individual needs.

“I am aware though that there is a significant barrier of physical access at Charles Sturt University.

“The rough paths and building design are not accessible to people with mobility restrictions.”

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CSU researcher Dr Clare Wilding called for people with a disability to share their experiences.

“Only two per cent of people with disability living in Australia's regional or remote areas are currently studying in higher education, compared with four per cent in a major city,” she said.

"We want to find out why this pattern is happening, and how universities, governments and the community can address the problem.

"Through this research, we hope to improve access and participation in higher education by regional people with a disability, particularly those from a low socio-economic background.”

Ms Tait said the study was a fantastic step in the right direction.

“There is a community perception and expectation that people who have a disability will not attend university,” she said.

“We need to challenge this perception and offer university as a choice to everyone if that is what will take them toward their career goals.”