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Working towards fair access for all

It is the responsibility of universities to make sure all students feel engaged and supported.

The University of Western Sydney’s School of Nursing and Midwifery faces many challenges in relation to potential and current undergraduate nursing students as a result of the 2009 amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act.

Previously, students with a disability who felt they were not given appropriate support to be able to participate in a course were required to provide evidence of discrimination.

The amendments have moved the responsibility to universities to demonstrate that all reasonable adjustments have been made to enable the student to have access to and engagement in their chosen course. This has provided the impetus for the university to inform both potential and current students of how they can be reasonably supported in an undergraduate nursing program.

To support students with a disability, while maintaining the integrity of a course necessitates identification of requirements which are considered essential or inherent for that course.

In order to facilitate the articulation of the inherent requirements in the undergraduate nursing programs offered by the University of Western Sydney (UWS), a collaborative partnership was established with the School of Nursing and Midwifery (SoNM), Student Equity and Disability Services of UWS.

The ‘Inherent Requirements in Nursing Education’ (IRONE) project was initiated.

The project’s purpose is to develop a series of statements that clearly articulate the requirements of the bachelor of nursing programs offered at UWS. It is anticipated that expression of these statements will facilitate the informed decision making of potential and current students.

The statements will also provide clear parameters for the determination of reasonable adjustments to enable admission and progression of students with disabilities in the bachelor of nursing programs.

To-date the project has involved gaining a shared understanding of the legislation, the inherent requirements and what these mean for the discipline of nursing. The curriculum for the bachelor of nursing (BN) program at UWS is being mapped to identify inherent requirements while considering alternative ways that learning outcomes can be met.

Once this mapping process in the BN has been completed, the process will be repeated for other UWS undergraduate nursing programs. On completion, the IRONE project will develop a best practice model to inform other UWS disciplines about inclusion of inherent requirement statements for their courses.

This model will be a valuable resource for academics, students and disability advisers within UWS and the broader disability and higher education sectors.

The project leader would be interested to hear of any other work being undertaken in this area and can be contacted at [email protected]

Members of the IRONE team include: Trevor Allan (head, Student Equity, Welfare and Disability Services), Toni Azzopardi (associate lecturer, deputy director clinical education - simulation), Cathy Dickson (lecturer, deputy director clinical education), Mary Goldsmith (associate lecturer, disability advisor in SoNM), Cecily Hengstberger-Sims (associate professor and director undergraduate studies), Amanda Johnson (senior lecturer, deputy director undergraduate studies and project leader) and Kirrilee Phillips (project officer).

Authors: Amanda Johnson, Kirrilee Phillips and Mary Goldsmith.

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