Discourse December 2015
Welcome to the December edition of Discourse, we hope you enjoy this edition and wish you a safe and happy holiday season.
December 3 is International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD). IDPwD is a United Nations sanctioned day that aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being. Each year the UN announces a theme. The theme for 2015 is: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities. There is a diverse mix of events on around Australia everything from theatre to free bowling to parades. Check out the event calendar for an event near you on December 3rd: http://www.idpwd.com.au/3-december/calendar/
Last week South Australia featured strongly amongst the winners of National Disability Awards, including UniSA graduate, Kate Swaffer who won the Emerging Leader Disability Awareness. Chair and co-founder of Dementia Alliance International, Kate Swaffer advocates for the human rights of people with dementia in Australia and around the world. Since her own diagnosis with younger onset dementia at the age of 49, Kate has worked hard to address the stigma and discrimination that she and other people with dementia experience. As well as her work with a range of national and international committees, projects and public speaking engagements, Kate also completed two tertiary degrees at UniSA after her diagnosis. She has also written a book, soon to be published titled, “What the hell happened to my brain? Living beyond Dementia.” Read more about the 2015 National Disability Award winners.
It’s a daunting enough for any young person who wants to go out there and explore the world, but having a disability on top of that can make it seem almost impossible – especially the thought of going at it alone.Victoria Fiorentio is proof that travelling with a disability is not only possible, it’s incredible. Read more.
Priscilla completed her Bachelor of Visual Arts and is now studying her first year in Masters of Teaching.
What were your initial impressions of university when you first commenced?
My opinion of studying changed completely when I came to UniSA. The staff were approachable, friendly and supportive. It was a laid back environment and I was never put down, every idea was a great idea and the thought of pushing that idea further was said in a positive way.
What barrier(s), if any, did you see your disability presenting to your studies and future plans?
I not only struggle with a learning disability but also have a medical condition that comes under the umbrella term of Auto Immune Disease. My low thyroid impacts my levels of energy as well as my concentration. I was also born without the hormone that balances out the toxicity of stress. Together these led to my hair falling out at the age of 10. Auto Immune diseases led to other barriers that caused me to feel even more different from others. I was always seeing doctors which interfered with my schooling and at times my studies at university. The medication I was on also caused me to feel quite unwell when I reacted in a negative way leading me to miss tutorials and lectures.
My disability and medical conditions created different barriers in my studies and future plans. Growing up with a learning disability, I experienced being very hard on myself and I feel like I am slower than other people. I did not feel I had much support in school. This really impacted on my self-esteem, caused me to not want help and I always felt I had to prove that I was like all the other students.
How did you overcome such barriers?
The process I had to take to overcome the barriers of both a medical condition and a learning disability was not something that happened overnight. It took a lot of hard work, persistence, and a positive, optimistic view on life to overcome it all.
At University, a tutor told me that I needed to seek help with my studies and my structuring of essays. I was very stubborn and did not want the help. I had recieved a lot of help since 10 and I just wanted to do something on my own. Then I was sat down twice by teachers from two separate classes who told me that it is ok to have help, that we can not always do things on our own, and that if the helping hand is there we should take the opportunity as it will benefit us in the long run. It took two teachers to tell me this before I decided to see the Learning Teaching Unit (LTU), and till this day it was the best decision I have ever made.
I had my family and my friends supporting me and also had help from the lovely staff in the LTU help me find my way though it all. I look back now and say to my family and friend’s when I have a dark moment 'look how far I have come I can’t quit now and sure I got a bit of help but it was all me!' This keeps me going. My achievements are not just my studies, but also the little things. I have all my hair back. I have improved in my literacy. I have helped others who don’t have a learning disability believe in themselves. And you need to laugh at yourself and see the funny side of everything because if you can not do this it will be hard.
You have completed a course in Visual Arts, which was very practical, how has studying an Education degree been different? Have you required different adjustments or access considerations?
I completed a course in Visual Arts, which was very practical and is very different to studying an Education degree in some areas. Both courses requires you to think outside the box. However, though an Education degree you need to think about how you learn as an individual and how you can help a child. This degree makes you think on a professional level.
I have required different adjustments and access considerations for the two degrees. I have needed extra time on assignments and support to improve time management. There is more reading in the Education degree than in the Visual Arts Degree. Being an artistic person, I also had to find time for all the theory work that was required of me.
What tips would you have for new students with a disability commencing studies?
Never give up on yourself, don’t let anyone tell you that you are not cut out for any degree or are not smart enough to do something. We all learn differently and we all face challenges. We need to realise that these challenges make us who we are. Once you realise this you will be able to achieve anything.
The second tip I have is do not be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. When you ask for help you are saying, “you know what? I am not understanding this completely and I just need a second opinion, or even I just need to see if I can improve this to achieve the best result”.
The third tip I would suggest is to be organised to stay on top. Form a study group, because when you have a learning disability you really do have a different way of thinking. I have learned that I can contribute to group because I may pick up something someone else may not have even thought of. The group can also support you in your learning.
One in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem in our lifetime. One in 10 will experience depression or anxiety with depression in any one year. This statistic holds true for students and young people. Depression is one of the biggest dangers facing young people today – suicide is the biggest killer of young men under 35 in the UK.
Students Against Depression is a website offering advice, information, guidance and resources to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Alongside clinically-validated information and resources it presents the experiences, strategies and advice of students themselves – after all, who are better placed to speak to their peers about how depression can be overcome. Check it out and read more.
ANZ has been employing people with a disability for a long time, and formalised that in 2008 with their first Disability Action Plan. Actively creating a diverse workplace has been a success. The following ANZ YouTube on the Job Access Website highlights this success:
October 29th was the annual forum Achieving Career Success with Disability. Students, staff, graduates and employers came together to discuss disclosure in the workshop, career planning, and support services for workplace modifications and adjustments. Some of the resources in the workshop are below for those who missed it but are keen on more information. Students are also welcome to book a 1:1 appointment with a Careers Adviser for career planning help or attend a resume writing workshop. If you are graduating in 2015 remember you may access the Career Services for 12 months post graduation.
There is also an Achieving Career Success with Disability webinar scheduled for this Friday December 4th hosted by Tony McAvaney (UniSA Career Services) and Stephen Manson(UniSA Disability Services). The webinar will provide an opportunity to develop your career planning and jobsearch skills and consider your approach to disclosing or managing disability related issues in employment settings. The session also includes an interview with a student. Webinar is an online event that includes audio, online interactive chat and on screen resources.
Registration is not required. To join the Webinar December 4th, 12.30 go to:
A hot topic especially when looking for work. Some links you may find useful:
- Disclosure Planning Resources
- Attached is a UniSA recent graduate’s story. Have a look at Ryan’s Employment Story: Advice from a recent graduate to you.
Career Planning Tools
- Career Services run regular resume writing workshops and employment preparation workshops. Check out events in Career Hub for more details.
- MyFuture have some great online tools to help you discover, explore and plan your career.
Do you want to find the right Disability Employment Service for you? This website offers a searchable database by State/Region of all federally funded Employment services providers, including the Disability Employment Services (DES). http://jobsearch.gov.au/provider/default.aspx
National Disability Coordination Officer Program
The National Disability Coordination Officer Program (NDCO) is a free service which assists students with a disability as they move from university to the workforce. They are a great team and worth getting in touch with for advice or connections as you start looking for a job.
Workplace Modifications Scheme
The Workplace Modifications Scheme pays for the cost involved in modifying the workplace or purchasing special or adaptive equipment for eligible employees with disability. It is also available to existing employees if they have had a change in duties, career progression, change in disability or a new modification becomes available that would increase their productivity. www.jobaccess.gov.au
Centrelink has important information outlining your responsibilities to notify them when you become employed. There is information about the Mobility Allowance and impact of work on your benefit. www.centrelink.gov.au