Griffith University: Supporting special needs

Griffith University, which consists of three campuses between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, is renowned as one of the most innovative and influential universities in Australia, and has been ever since it opened in 1975. However, one of its most impressive achievements may be seen in the support it offers to students with special needs, allowing them to enjoy their university experience as much as anyone else.

disabled-small-banner3‘Griffith University has a long-standing commitment to promoting diversity and social equality,’ says the university’s Disability Service Officer, Cathy Easte. ‘Between 10 and 20% of students have some form of disability, and one in two people know someone with a disability,’ she continues.

‘Griffith is very supportive. We try to do the best we can to accommodate all disabled individuals. We’ve had students here that had extremely limited movement and virtually no limbs, and we’ve managed to find a way for them to integrate into our community. Training and assisted learning are just a few of the services offered to accommodate students with all forms of disabilities.’

Griffith University student and Art for Spine ambassador Finbar Mills says that the university’s Nathan campus is particularly good. ‘There’s plenty of wheelchair parks, toilets that are easy to access and [it’s] very wheelchair friendly,’ he enthuses.

Mills believes it is often hard to break the stigma attached to disability, but that it’s about promoting education and realising that people with disabilities are fully functioning human beings. ‘It comes down to our own personal capability,’ he says, ‘but it is [also] about education. You know, you need people like me […] to show that we are so normal. I just have to be myself and that’s normal, you know. It’s boringly normal,’ he laughs.

Capalaba MP Steve Davies believes it is important to see people for their content and their character, not for what colour they are or whether they’re in a wheelchair. ‘There’s been a huge leap [forwards] within the last twenty years,’ he says. ‘Once upon a time, if you had a disability, intellectual or physical, you’d just be dumped in a special school and that was your world.’

‘I think we live in a society,’ Davies continues, ‘that’s a cult of “perfectness”: this media society where if you’re not a size A […] you’re somehow not perfect […] and so this continual bombardment with Hollywood media stuff is actually detrimental.’

Disability Action Week was held 8th–14th September 2013. To find out how you can get involved next year, visit www.communities.qld.gov.au.

By Claire Fitzpatrick
Claire Fitzpatrick is studying HR and Politics at Griffith University and Psychology at RMIT. She thinks Jon Snow is a Targaryen, and Pulp Fiction is the greatest movie of all time. In her spare time she writes about the Vietnam War and chases after a toddler who constantly steals her bookmarks.

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