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Judzea Gatt

8 September 2021

Do you face any accessibility barriers? Judzea shares how Deakin resources help her study

Deakin’s vibrant and diverse community includes many students who have a learning barrier or disability. This can be experienced as a result of a wide range of conditions, and includes students who care for a person with disability.

If you know – or think – you may be in this group, you need to know about the Disability Resource Centre (DRC). The DRC supports the University community to be more inclusive of, and provide adjustments for, students for whom a disability, health or mental health condition affects their access to education.

The DRC works with more than 4000 students to help them get the most out of their Deakin experience.

But what’s it like to access the DRC and how does it actually help on a day-to-day basis? Third-year Science student Judzea Gatt, who’s majoring in both animal and human biology, shares her accessibility experiences – both good and bad – and how she approaches her study.

I am both dyslexic and autistic, so there are multiple factors affecting my accessibility at Deakin. I struggle with auditory processing, which means I need subtitles in all lectures and recordings. I use a digital reader for all text, including in exams and quizzes. My dyslexia include dyscalculia, meaning extra trouble with mathematics and graph reading. I rely heavily on my CAS calculator and require extra assistance for math problems, while graphs are generally not accessible.

I searched for universities with accessibility services and found Deakin’s was the most accessible and well-advertised. As soon as I gave them my diagnosis, I was able to create my Access Plan.

Deakin has some amazing accessibility features. Creating and updating my Access Plan was very easy. Receiving special consideration for exams was smooth, making the exam process far less stressful. I have exams in a separate room with extra time, and use my computer and digital reader. I’m also given digital copies of all my textbooks so I can use my digital reader. This has helped considerably and allowed me to complete assessments and exams to the best of my actual ability. The DRC has also done all in their power to find a digital reader that works on the unit sites.

There are accessibility issues within units. My needs often aren’t addressed unless I remind unit chairs, despite them having my Access Plan. Things like subtitles and extra time for online quizzes are frequently forgotten. If you’re not willing to communicate regularly about your needs you may miss out on vital assistance, but this can be difficult for students with anxiety or social stress, like I have with my autism.

Moving to mainly online learning has made it much harder to study effectively. I thrive best on routine and the online setting has largely undone this. Recordings are sometimes unclear and I don’t learn as effectively when we can only use written communication with staff. Certain concepts are far less engrained when I can’t discuss them with tutors and peers. The loss of practicals has been the most difficult as I have no opportunity for tactile learning, which is the most effective and accessible learning for me.

For a mind like mine, online open-book exams are a challenge. The DRC seems less involved in managing online assessments, so I’ve had to personally ensure extra time and accessible formats. I struggle most with the question format rather than the actual content, as I often interpret the questions incorrectly.

Going forward, I would love for some special considerations to be automatic. For example, subtitles on all lectures would benefit even students without an Access Plan. Online class tests should have some kind of system so unit chairs can automatically see which students qualify for extra time.

Do you need accessibility support?

If Judzea’s story has inspired you to explore how you may benefit from support, visit the DRC website, which explains what help is available and who may be eligible. Even if you think the service doesn’t apply to you, learning about the range of help on offer may highlight there is assistance available you hadn’t even considered.

The DRC is also available for general enquiries and appointments from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Call 9244 6255 or email [email protected].

Once you know more about what’s on offer, you can apply for assistance by completing the online Request support form. Supporting documentation from a health professional is usually required. Once we’ve received your information, we’ll contact you for a phone interview and take things from there.

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