The innovative Student Aid (SA) program initiated by RMIT Vietnam Equitable Learning Services (ELS) was awarded the 2023 ADCET’s Accessibility in Action Award for its exceptional work in furthering accessibility, diversity and inclusion for its students.
The SA program was first launched in 2017 at RMIT Vietnam Saigon South and Hanoi campuses to provide support for registered students with a range of circumstances.
SA staff are currently enrolled RMIT students who work in diverse roles such as notetakers, exam scribes, readers and participation assistants in lectures, tutorials, practical sessions, exams, and field trips.
To qualify, students need to have completed one-third of their program and sustained a GPA of at least 3.0/4.
Starting as 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.
|RMIT Vietnam Student Aid (SA) program was awarded the 2023 ADCET’s Accessibility in Action Award.|
Each semester, ELS supports an average of 120 students and around 20% of these students request assistance from the SA program. From 2019-2022, the SA program provided a total of 10,580 hours of service. The service was maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic amidst major changes including transitioning to online learning.
Assistance by SA is determined on an individual basis following careful consideration of each student’s unique support needs. For example, students with sensory conditions may benefit from having a note-taker and participation assistant to better engage with activities offered through multiple sensory modes. Students who have ongoing health conditions may also benefit from SA service during their absences due to hospitalisations. Some neurodiverse students have specific note taking, reader or scribe requirements that SA support can provide.
|RMIT Vietnam Equitable Learning Services Team and Students Aids.|
Since 2022, SA staff have also engaged actively in converting some study materials to digital formats, contributing to efforts to improving digital accessibility at RMIT Vietnam.
RMIT Vietnam Equitable Learning Services Manager Ms. Carol Witney said that currently in Vietnam, RMIT is the first and only higher education institution which can support the needs of students who are neurodiverse or living with a disability, mental health condition, a long-term health concern or carer responsibilities impacting their educational participation through the provision of appropriate educational adjustments.
“Assistance by SA is a critical part of the comprehensive services provided to registered students to ensure their equitable access and participation in academic activities,” Ms. Witney said.
|New students receive training to understand about disabilities and Student Aids' roles.|
“With the support of the SA program starting from their foundation or first year, students are provided with a smoother transition into an international higher education setting and the reinforcement of inclusivity beyond the campus environment.
“As a result, this program has aided in not just changing the Vietnamese social stigma toward people with disability, it has also played a key role in promoting individual student’s independence with dignity and respect.”
“It is also a testament to RMIT’s new Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) framework 2023, which is based on a universal design for learning, respect for intersectionality and individual differences and building community capacity. Our Student Aids will have leadership and graduate competencies in IDEA. A community well versed in this area creates a safe and respectful environment for all,” Ms. Witney added.
A registered student using the SA service since 2020 said that with the respectful, helpful and dedicated support from Student Aid, the student can access lectures more quickly and more conveniently.
“And thanks to the SA program, I have made many great friends,” the student said.
The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education under the Higher Education Disability Support Program and is hosted by the University of Tasmania. The Accessibility in Action Awards are held annually in line with the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) where everyone gets to talk, think and learn about digital access and inclusion of more than one billion people with disabilities/impairments.
This year, the ADCET Accessibility in Action Awards received an overwhelming response, highlighting the growing commitment and dedication to fostering accessibility in the tertiary education sector. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges with expertise in accessibility and inclusive learning, design and student support.
“Everyone has demonstrated outstanding innovation, dedication, and impact through their initiatives, and awards like this allow this work to be shared across the sector,” said Ms. Darlene McLennan, Manager of ADCET.