Doing it right for Dis/abled students

Opinion // 10.06.2016 // Curated by Ed.

Dis/ability and Doing It Better

Are students with learning difficulties and dis/abilities receiving sufficient support in higher education?

According to Statistics NZ [1], only 12 percent of dis/abled students had a Bachelor’s degree or higher in 2013.  It is simply not enough.  What’s worse is that students’ dis/abilities or learning difficulties are “often exacerbated by the limited availability of mainstream opportunities”[2] Accessibility is key to improvements in dis/abled students’ participation, achievements, and outcomes in higher education, and it’s clearly not being provided.

So we raise the question, how do we grow accessibility, participation and achievements for dis/abled students?  What measures have been successful or less successful in improving these aspects for students with dis/abilities in higher education?

In research by Wilson & Savery,[3] our tertiary students reported that there could be improvements around inclusion, suitable teaching pedagogies, individualised teaching approaches, and the level of available psychological support for students with dis/abilities and learning difficulties.

The same study revealed that the students’ success is supported by:

  • A teacher’s resilience, flexibility and adaptability.
  • A teacher’s positive identification of the students’ situation helps them to study well.
  • Self-aware teachers are better able to accommodate students’ needs and accept their students’ differences so that they are encouraged and persevere.

An open, comfortable and supportive environment encourages students to express their struggles and ask for assistance. This can provide positive consequences such as improved participation, accessible support, achievements and outcomes.

In another study by Bevan-Brown and Walker[4],  two Māori students with visual impairments reported specific and general barriers to their learning;

  • Lack of accessible Māori-related and Māori language resources at both their wānanga and local libraries
  • Lack of a Māori-speaking computer dictionary or spellcheck
  • Additional costs to get materials transcribed by a proficient Māori speaker – these cost twice as much as English transcriptions!
  • Lack of discretion from tutors to hand in an adapted assignment format (such as a spoken essay delivered through CDs or audiotapes)
  • Limited disability support services
  • Limited equipment to accommodate to students’ needs
  • Limited teachers’ knowledge about visual impairment
  • Tutors’ reliance on visuals to teach the Māori language

The lack of awareness about the barriers to learning that such students face is concerning.  It is an issue not only seen amongst these students but also many others across the nation.  In fact,  there are very few academic, peer-reviewed resources on this topic – the discussion is not even being had.

Ed. Collective wants to get the conversation started.  How can the New Zealand education system change to create an easier learning journey for students with dis/abilities or learning difficulties?  We want to hear YOUR experiences and thoughts.  What can be changed around the support that dis/abled students receive in higher education? Ed posologie viagra 25mg. is listening.






[1]  Statistics New Zealand. (2013). Social and economic outcomes for disabled people: Findings from the 2013 Disability Survey. 1-20.

[2]  Irving, B. A. (2012). Access, opportunity, and career: supporting the aspirations of dis/abled students with high-end needs in New Zealand. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 17(10), 1040-1052.

[3] Wilson, M. & Savery, N. (2013). Stories of resilience: Learning from adult students’ experiences of studying with dyslexia in tertiary education. Journal of Adult Learning Aotearoa New Zealand, 40(1), 110-123. Retrieved from:

[4] Bevan-Brown, J. & Walker, T. (2013). Taking Culture into Account: A Māori Perspective on Visual Impairment. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 1(7), 388-392.