RMIT Vietnam’s Equitable Learning and Accessibility turns 10

RMIT Vietnam’s Equitable Learning and Accessibility turns 10

RMIT Vietnam’s Equitable Learning and Accessibility (ELA) has been providing equal and inclusive education opportunities for students with a diverse range of conditions and circumstances, for over ten years.

ELA’s precursor – the Disability Resource Centre launched in December 2013, with a crucial objective to remove barriers that impact students’ engagement in university life.

Carol Witney, Equitable Learning and Accessibility’s Manager said, “Students with learning differences and disabilities face unique challenges at university.

“Recognising this, RMIT Vietnam put in place programs and services to help them overcome those challenges and find success at university – and in life.

“It’s part of the University’s commitment to join the Vietnamese Government’s efforts in ensuring that people with disabilities can fully participate in society and equally enjoy their fundamental rights.”

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'rmit-vietnam-equitable-learning-and-accessibility-news-1' Equitable Learning and Accessibility Manager Ms Carol Witney (standing, 2nd from left) and the Wellbeing and Counselling team.

The service was renamed Equitable Learning Service (ELS) in 2016 and joined the University’s Wellbeing to complete the holistic support it has been offering to students so that they can progress successfully.

It has been going strong with about 100 registrations each semester across Saigon South and Hanoi campuses since 2015. Its beneficiaries have expanded to include not only the recipients of RMIT Vietnam’s Opportunity Scholarship but also students who are neurodiverse or living with disability, mental condition, a long-term health concern or having carer responsibilities impacting their educational participation.

“It’s important to note that 20 percent of registered students have a complex condition, meaning they may have more than one diagnosis.

“These figures highlight the diversity of health challenges and conditions students face.

“It is crucial to pay attention to mental health and neurodiversity to ensure that appropriate support systems and adjustments are in place. By doing so, we can create an inclusive environment that recognises and responds to the unique needs of each student, fostering a more equitable and supportive learning community. Addressing these conditions not only enhances the educational experience but also contributes to the overall wellbeing and success of the students,” said Ms Witney.

ELS has worked with schools and departments, including the School of English and University Pathway (SEUP), to ensure the equitable learning plans are followed and teachers have support to make adjustments to their classrooms, lessons, materials and assessments. Since 2016, SEUP has had two designated teaching staff as ELS Liaisons, enhancing the service’s reach and efficiency.

SEUP Educator and Equitable Learning and Accessibility Liaison, Keiran Rossteuscher said all of the School’s core curriculum materials are accessible, and teachers receive training in how to make their own materials accessible.

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'rmit-vietnam-equitable-learning-and-accessibility-news-2' Interim Associate Director, Wellbeing and Counselling Mr Michael Tower (far right) and staff from the School of English and University Pathways who have worked hard to enhance ELA service’s reach and efficiency.

“Due to the nature of language teaching and learning, we have regular exams and assessments, and robust processes to ensure adjustments are made in a timely and fair manner.

“We choose larger and more accessible classrooms for classes with students who have mobility conditions or visual impairment,” Keiran said.

Over the last 12 months, SEUP has had 27 students with an Equitable Learning Plan.

In 2017, ELS initiated and launched the innovative Student Aid (SA) program to provide support for registered students with a range of circumstances.

SA staff include RMIT students who work in diverse roles as notetakers, exam scribes, readers and participation assistants in lectures, tutorials, practical sessions, exams, and field trips. Starting from an extra service team of only two student aids, the team now comprises 35 team members across campuses to meet the growing demand for this highly specialised and unique service.

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'rmit-vietnam-equitable-learning-and-accessibility-news-3' Student Aid program was awarded the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training’s Accessibility in Action Award in 2023.

Around 20 per cent of students ELS supports each semester request assistance from the SA program. From 2019 to 2022, the SA program provided 10,580 hours of service. The service was maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic amidst major changes including transitioning to online learning. Since 2022, SA staff have also engaged actively in converting some study materials to digital formats, contributing to the efforts to improve digital accessibility at RMIT Vietnam.

This year, the SA program received the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training’s Accessibility in Action Award for its exceptional work in furthering accessibility, diversity and inclusion for its students.

Bachelor of Business (Accountancy) alumni Khong Thi Thuy My who is undertaking an Associate Degree in the US said she would never have made it to graduation without the support she received from ELS.

“I was diagnosed with anxiety symptoms and PTSD thanks to the Wellbeing’s service from RMIT. I then got support from ELS to ensure I could achieve my higher education without learning barriers,” said My.

The service supported My with priority registration, assignment extensions, and course planning to ensure it aligned with her study conditions.

“The support strengthened my confidence and understanding of my learning condition which enables me to not only graduate from RMIT with distinction, but also pursue a double major degree.

“While studying in the US, I realised that the equitable learning service is the core of student success. Being a beneficiary of ELS gave me a strong foundation to prepare for overseas study and I always proactively seek support to improve my learning experience and enhance my academic achievement,” said My.

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'rmit-vietnam-equitable-learning-and-accessibility-news-4' Participants were impressed with ELA’s achievements over the last 10 years.

As part of the 10th anniversary, the service has changed its name to Equitable Learning and Accessibility to reflect the diversity and impact of the community it serves. The change further aligns with the RMIT’s Knowledge with Action strategy and its Vietnam Country Commitment.

Story: Ha Hoang

12 December 2023


  • Wellbeing

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