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Disability Services expands Academic Plans to all faculties

Justine Landis-Hanley reports.

The expansion of Disability Services’ Academic Plans to all faculties of the University has been met with mixed reactions from students.

Academic plans require students to list all adjustments for their units (such as note-taking arrangements, timetable changes and extensions on assessments) based on the subject outline at the start of each semester. This will replace previous faculty-specific modes of providing assistance.

Disability Support told Honi the new system “allows for forward planning and resources to be directed where needed ahead of time, providing confidence to students that their needs will be met”, and said that “85 per cent of surveyed students using the Academic Plan last year indicated they found it to be an effective study management tool.”

However, some students have expressed apprehension about the rigid structure of pre-nominating assistance so early in the semester.

Noa Zulman, FASS Disability Action Plan Consultative Committee’s Undergraduate representative, said that “students with disabilities who were previously able to access special provisions for exams or assignments with relative ease, now often face a significant time lag before their Academic Plans are processed, which may result in anxiety, undue stress, and a level of physical and emotional discomfort that impedes their ability to study effectively.”

Undergraduate Arts student Sally*, said having to decide what adjustments you want for every assessment at the start of semester prevented Disability Services from being able to monitor the students’ disability and take a nuanced approach to managing their needs.

“It means that Disability Support can’t observe how often they access adjustments during semester, and whether there are any decreasing trends in their state of health.”

Arts student Georg Tamm warned Academic Plans are also powerless at the discretion of lecturers in some Faculties. 

For example, in the Business School, students with special consideration or disability services adjustment can submit an assessment after its due date. But a loophole exists, allowing Lecturers to set a closing date for the assessment any point after the due date. After this date, no submissions will be accepted and a student will be given a zero mark regardless of their disability services adjustments.

Tamm said that the University needed to reevaluate the long-term price students will pay for short term administrative efficiency.

“We need to be able to put the person before the paperwork and the Academic Plans don’t do that.”

The University has indicated that they will monitor the process to identify areas of improvement.

*name has been changed.