Starting uni with a disability, long-term illness or mental health condition can be daunting at first, but RMIT’s Equitable Learning Services (ELS) are designed to support students all the way.
One of the biggest myths about university is that students with disabilities, long-term illnesses or mental health conditions will find a lack of learning support, especially compared to high school. It’s a myth that comes with the truth that at university, our sense of independence is strengthened.
But through RMIT’s Equitable Learning Services (ELS), independence is nurtured alongside health and wellbeing for a learning experience that helps students unlock what’s next.
ELS encompasses a range of support services for students, parents and carers, with the goal of providing equal opportunities to all students at RMIT.
Tania Perez, Senior Coordinator of Equitable Learning and Accessibility, said the most popular service is organising equitable learning plans for students. Equitable learning plans outline students’ learning needs and can include adjustments for assessments, such as extended deadlines.
“Our services are tailored to individual needs and are self-directed by the student and include a range of study adjustments, assistive technology and linking students to study support services,” she said.
“We also organise services for students who have a print disability, including alternative formatting, assistive technology programs and linking students into library services. Other services we often organise are AUSLAN interpreters, notetakers and participation assistants.
“We also address any accessibility issues that may come up to ensure that students are included in all aspects of university life.”
ELS appointments are currently offered online, but will open for face-to-face sessions at RMIT’s City and Bundoora campuses in line with ongoing government advice. To book an appointment with an ELS advisor, students can call directly on +61 3 9925 5000, or use the online booking system.
Parents and carers are welcome to join ELS appointments if students feel a little nervous on their own.
“For many students, parents and carers play an important role in making decisions about study,” said Reema Muneer, ELS advisor.
“With permission, ELS welcomes input from parents to provide better support and assistance. The level of involvement of parents is completely up to the student.”
At the same time, students are encouraged to play an active role in understanding their own needs, building their independence and achieving academic success.
“Students are supported to develop skills and confidence in their journey towards becoming independent learners,” said Reema.
When meeting new students, ELS advisors often ask about the study adjustments or support services students accessed at high school, so that similar support can be discussed for their equitable learning plan at university. This tailored learning plan is then shared with their university teachers.
“I’m allowed extra time and rest breaks for assessments, which helps simulate the same process that I was used to at high school. It’s helpful to know teachers are aware of my needs,” said Rebecca, current student of the Bachelor of Education (Primary and Early Childhood Education).
Rebecca's current diagnosis is dyslexia and autism, and she noted that a big lifesaver in her ELS experience was feeling like there were no hurdles to having her equitable learning plan implemented.
“Through ELS, you just email your teacher with the support you require, which in my case involved assignment extensions. The support is granted with no questions asked, which helped me focus on my assessments. In this time, I sought further assistance from classmates, explored the library study help, peer reviewed, or asked for more information about the assessments if I was still unsure about them.”
Reema said that ELS aims to foster student independence by balancing academic success with health and wellbeing.
“By discussing learning needs and reflecting on what adjustments have been useful in their study journey, students can arrive at a better understanding of what enables them, personally, to do their best.
“ELS allows students to practise and gain confidence in a number of life skills like independence, accountability and self-advocacy in a supportive environment,” she said.
Rebecca said that being able to access ELS helped her learn more about herself, including her strengths and areas for continual improvement.
“For me, this was realising that having a disability isn’t a deficit but rather an opportunity to connect with others similar to my needs.
“As a future primary and early childhood teacher, this will help develop my level of understanding with students, as I have experience and can relate to the process, struggle and strengths gained from finding, learning and discovering about my disabilities.”
“RMIT’s Career and Industry Experiences team provides careers support to students through one-on-one careers consultations,” said Tania.
“RMIT also has a strong partnership with external providers, including GradWISE for graduate disability employment, who support our students in gaining employment and internship opportunities.
“Along with this personalised support, RMIT has a range of online resources, workshops, mentoring, and industry engagement activities to educate, support and guide students.”
Story: Pallavi Daniel
Acknowledgement of Country
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.
Acknowledgement of Country
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.