Deaf Bendigo student says La Trobe University has not supported her learning

STUDENT: Cassandra Wright is profoundly deaf. Picture: ANDI YU

STUDENT: Cassandra Wright is profoundly deaf. Picture: ANDI YU

A STUDENT at La Trobe University's Bendigo campus says she has suffered "institutional discrimination" because of inadequate support for her needs as a deaf person. 

Cassandra Wright, 33, is in the final semester of a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in sociology and history but says she is unable to complete her studies.

She pulled out of two history subjects because she could not follow teaching given via video conference. 

"There has been a definite shift away from face to face classes," Ms Wright said.

Ms Wright relies heavily on face-to-face communication because she has to lip-read, which she says is too difficult on video. 

She signed up to have her lectures transcribed, but found there was a four-day delay meaning she fell behind. 

Ms Wright sent emails to her lecturers and to the university's Equality and Diversity centre, but did not receive the support she hoped for. 

"I'm tired of the fact that I can just be pushed aside in terms of my needs. I don't want any special favours, I just want equal footing," she said.

"I find La Trobe University to be somewhat hostile in the sense that there's not adequate support for people in my situation. 

"I don't feel welcome at my local university anymore."

Ms Wright said the increasing move towards online learning meant those needing face-to-face tuition were being left behind. 

She does not begrudge teaching staff for not providing adequate support but said they were unable to because of pay and time constraints. 

La Trobe University Bendigo campus head Rob Stephenson said the university could not comment on any student's personal circumstances but that the institution was "strongly committed to supporting students with a disability". 

"We currently have more than 1000 students with a disability across the university who receive ongoing support," he said.

"Supports are tailored to the specific requirements of each student.

"We provide a range of services including note-taking, Auslan interpreting, real-time captioning, lecture transcripts, additional time in examinations and extensions on assignments."

Mr Stephenson said the provision of online learning and "flexible delivery modes" enabled students to participate who previously would have been excluded.

"When these modes of delivery provide difficulties for students we have a commitment to providing alternative access to this material via lecture transcripts, real time captioning, note-takers and interpreting services.

"In addition many lecturers meet one-on-one with students to ensure they don't miss any important content. There are many more flexible options that are available in supporting disadvantaged students.

"While there is some material delivered remotely, the university is moving away from non-facilitated video-conferences. In other words, students will be in the room for important tutorials and workshops."

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