Beyond Accomodations: Achieving a Supporting Environment in Higher Education for People with Disability
Higher education in Australia has dramatically changed over the years to cater to a more diverse student population. Additionally, with this shift came advancements in providing accommodations such as disability services offices, counseling, and academic advising. Also, while these accommodations may have been sufficient, it is essential to note that students have different needs. That is why creating a supportive environment in higher education in Australia is crucial.
1. Supporting Mental Health education:
Many students face mental health-related issues at some point during their university career. According to a report published by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, university students have higher suicide rates than the national average. So, one way universities can support mental health is by offering mental health counselling services. However, mental health services are not unavailable to all students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Therefore, universities should consider offering peer-led support programs that can provide twenty-four-seven support to students.
2. Providing Non-Academic Support:
Most students live off-campus. Hence, it is vital to provide non-academic support to students to help them navigate the challenges of living independently. Similarly, there is a need for universities to provide support for students by assisting them with financial aid, food and housing insecurity, and even transportation. Likewise, such support for students is beneficial, especially for those from low-income backgrounds, as they are more susceptible to emergencies.
3. Creating Inclusive Policies for disability education:
Higher education institutions are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. In addition, while providing accommodations is essential, it is not enough to create a supportive environment. An inclusive policy should be in place to avoid discrimination in any of its forms. For instance, a policy that supports gender identity and sexual orientation can help create a supportive environment for students from the LGBTQ+ community. Lastly, a welcoming environment should also be provided to students of different races, nationalities, and cultures.
4. Encouraging education Initiatives:
Providing a supportive environment is a collective effort that should involve faculty, staff, and students. To encourage this, universities can create various campus initiatives that promote inclusivity and a supportive environment. Such initiatives could involve creating spaces where students from diverse backgrounds can share their experiences. Similarly, they can form support groups, and seek leadership opportunities.
5. Providing Gaps in Resources:
Some students face significant life challenges. Such as, a sick family member, childcare responsibilities, or a lack of access to necessary technology to complete their coursework. So, universities should support students by providing resources for such issues. Likewise, this support may include resources such as technology, funding for family emergencies and child care services. Similarly, providing assistance for such issues can help boost a student’s academic performance, mental health, and their overall student experience.
In conclusion, providing students with a supportive environment is crucial in navigating the challenges that come with higher education. Also, universities should consider supporting mental health and providing non-academic support. Similarly, also in creating inclusive policies, encouraging campus initiatives, and providing resources to fill gaps. At last, when we achieve a supportive environment, we help all students thrive in their academic careers, no matter their circumstances.
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