Call for inclusivity for students with disability in universities across borders

By Amirah Yasmin

GOMBAK, 22 September 2021: Everything given to students without disability should be given to students with disability, Prof. Dr. Ruzita Mohd Amin told a recent webinar when discussing disabled students’ struggle in universities.

Panelists agree that the disabled community’s inclusivity at the tertiary level requires support from a varied perspective.

The international webinar entitled “Implementing Inclusive Education Best Practices for Intellectual and Non-Intellectual Disabilities in Higher Education: The Malaysian and Australian Experiences” hosted an eye-opening discussion among three panelists and two moderators pertaining to the wider lens on the struggles of the disabled.

The panelists from Malaysia and Australia, Prof. Dr. Ruzita Mohd Amin and Assoc. Prof. Dr. David Evans respectively highlighted that besides the legislations and action plans, support must exist from the surrounding community as well.

Moreover, Prof. Dr. Ruzita Mohd Amin also emphasised that to create an inclusive environment for the disabled community, the mindset of the masses must be reformed.

One of the examples given was that the public tends to stare at the disabled as if they are foreign to society. Furthermore, students with invisible or intellectual disabilities such as autism are most likely to be discriminated against by their peers in class.

To counter the infamous problem, Prof. Dr. Ruzita Mohd Amin and Assoc. Prof. Dr. David Evans, who have experienced in attending to the disabled students’ discrimination in International Islamic University Malaysia and University of Sydney respectively, showcased existing initiatives of student buddies or mentors for the disabled.

Since the issue was viewed from an international spectrum, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mary-Ann O’Donovan as well as the moderator, Prof. Dr Mohd Nizam Barom, discussed the extra struggle faced by international students to receive assistance when furthering their studies. This becomes more challenging when a fraction of initiatives cover only for local students.

The difficulties faced by international students were also related to ‘double discrimination’ that had been brought up repeatedly throughout the webinar. The webinar noted the double discrimination that exists when a member of the disabled community is concurrently a minority in society such as the aboriginals.

Hosted by IIUM’s Disability Services Unit (ODRSDCE) in collaboration with the Centre for Disability Studies, University of Sydney, Australia, the webinar strived on the possibility to replicate initiatives and frameworks worldwide into the Malaysian context.***

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