RMIT inclusive support brings out potential in graduates

RMIT inclusive support brings out potential in graduates

As graduates with disabilities, Nguyen Thien Phu and Vong Minh Nhi navigated their journeys at RMIT with remarkable determination.

Their transformation is a testament to the fact that unique achievements are possible when students are given the tools and opportunities to thrive.

Vibrant energy in the wheelchair

Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, Nguyen Thien Phu faced challenges beyond academic pursuits. Yet, it didn’t hold him back from enjoying university’s life to the fullest. Phu immersed himself in learning, harnessed his creativity and employability, pursued his passion for design, and earned a bachelor's degree in Design (Digital Media)

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-1-rmit-inclusive-support-brings-potentials-out-of-graduates' Bachelor of Design (Digital Media) graduate Nguyen Thien Phu

“I was confused and uncertain about how my university life would be when I first joined RMIT.

“Thanks to the campus infrastructure, which is thoughtfully designed for accessibility, I could move around freely and actively engaged in various academic and social activities,” Phu said.

In his chosen program, Phu learnt to command many technologies, push the limits of design and how to form new radical visions. This could not be a smooth-sailing journey without the support he got from the University’s Equitable Learning and Accessibility (ELA) program which has been providing equal and inclusive education opportunities for students with a diverse range of conditions and circumstances over the past ten years.

In 2017, the ELA team initiated and launched the innovative Student Aid (SA) program to provide peer support for registered students with a range of circumstances. SA staff are current RMIT students who work as notetakers, exam scribes, readers and participation assistants in lectures, tutorials, practical sessions, exams, and field trips.

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-2-rmit-inclusive-support-brings-potentials-out-of-graduates' Phu and his parents

As one of the beneficiaries of the program, Phu praised the support he received.

“At the beginning of my academic journey, ELA supported me to develop an Equitable Learning Plan which included adjustments to my study conditions, such as assignment extension and support from Student Aid staff.

“Student Aid staff helped me to not only take notes during class, but also take footage when I undertook a course in digital video where I had to produce and edit a video individually,” Phu said.

As part of the degree, Phu and his classmates produced animated pilots with Alliance Anti-Trafic (AAT) to support the NGO in preventive education for vulnerable groups, especially females and young girls. After the 12-week long course, from the first meeting to ideation and visual development, Phu and his team presented their ideas for the plot, storytelling and visual development to AAT representatives and their lecturers.

“I was in charge of character development and animation.

“Using thin-line animation style, we told a story about a cyclo driver in a Vietnamese neighbourhood who explores his typographic superpower to protect children and women in need,” Phu said.

After years of using services from the Wellbeing team, Phu learnt more about himself and mental health, and even applied it to recontextualise everything that happened to him and his parents over the years. 

“Learning about mental health is the biggest benefit I received from the Wellbeing services.

“It reassured me that there’s always someone willing to give me a helping hand as long as I ask.

“It's not easy when there's a person with disability in the family. Our relationship [between Phu and his parents] has improved significantly. I am more relaxed and have learnt to enjoy the ride. I understand what happens won’t define me as a person,” Phu said.

Phu’s gratitude extends beyond Wellbeing staff, faculty and friends, it goes to those who have crossed paths with him on his journey at RMIT.

To his fellow graduates and himself, Phu said: “Let’s go out and experiment to see what works, what doesn’t, and don’t forget to have fun along the way”.

Vision beyond sight

A visually impaired graduate and RMIT’s Opportunity Scholarship recipient, Vong Minh Nhi has proudly received her bachelor's degree in Professional Communication.

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-3-rmit-inclusive-support-brings-potentials-out-of-graduates' Bachelor of Communication (Professional Communication) graduate Vong Minh Nhi

Nhi, who is extroverted, outgoing and loves writing, chose communication as her major and was fully aware of the challenges it would present.

Learning to be a communicator with cross-platform skills, Nhi had to join in activities which might not fit her condition and couldn’t be performed without alternative assessment arrangements. Howerver, she believed that creativity and determination to tackle challenges would assist her in establishing a presence in the market."

“I once had to submit a visual idea as part of a creative advertising course.

“Instead of drawing, I was able to present my work in written form with detailed description. Developing a poster with the help of a Student Aid was another arrangement I benefited from,” Nhi said.

Nhi noted the support she received at RMIT was hardly available elsewhere and thanks to the assistance from ELA, she had equal opportunities to successfully acquire the knowledge and skills to excel in the industry.

“Being away from home and living independently from an early age made teamwork and leadership unfamiliar to me.

"Through assignments and activities I got involved in at RMIT, these skill gaps were gradually filled and I’m prepared for a career in an NGO,” said Nhi.

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'news-4-rmit-inclusive-support-brings-potentials-out-of-graduates' Nhi and her mother

In 2020, Nhi teamed up with other RMIT students to join RMIT Vietnam’s first Accessibility Design Competition. Her team was the first runner-up with the idea to develop a software which enables people with visual impairments to access musical notes through a screen reader.

The competition was initially created to provide a platform for students within RMIT Vietnam to apply their practical business and design knowledge, to real life social scenarios. It has now become an annual event, providing a platform for students in Vietnam to collaborate with industry partners and generate innovative ideas that promote inclusivity for individuals with disabilities in the workplace.

“People with visual impairment often find music-related work appealing due to their heightened musical sensibility,” Nhi said.

“However, the screen reader software can only read text, not music moulds nor symbols, and while music description in text can be accessible in Braille, it is expensive and unavailable, so we have to refer to more visual materials available online.

“My team created a demo for the competition and hope to see it in real life in the future,” said Nhi.

Over the past few years, Nhi has engaged in sharing sessions at RMIT and beyond to encourage the youth to seek knowledge and education for a better life.

At the end of 2023, Nhi gave a presentation about the impact of higher education on people with disabilities, using what she benefited from at RMIT Vietnam as a case study at Asia Pacific Youth Summit for the Blind in Manila, Philippines.

Nhi said determination and hard work helped her get to where she is. She wishes her fellow graduates luck in finding jobs they enjoy and are passionate about, just like what she wishes for herself.

Story: Ha Hoang

  • Graduation
  • Digital media

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