In preparation for the first meeting of what is to become the Auckland Disabled Students Association, I managed to book a room that was less than accessible; who knew you can’t view the accessibility of a room when you go to book it? I didn’t. In consultation with the Ministry of Education and the President of the National Disabled Students Association, we had a meeting that has started discussions that disabled students have been wanting to have for quite some time.
We are inviting students with disabilities and allies to be a part of this kaupapa. We know that there are voices that are needing to be heard, and we are wanting to create a space for this to happen. The University isn’t always aware of what students with disabilities want and need, and we hope that by coming together we can create a greater level of awareness on some of the issues faced by this community.
The National Disabled Students Association currently has five Executive members, with some other tertiary institutions having their own disabled students’ organisations within them — for example, Victoria University of Wellington has had a disabled students’ association since the 1990s, and Canterbury University has recently been in the process of setting up an organisation of this nature.
While there is some student representation on the University’s Disability Programme Advisory Group, this has been limited and is growing, and is the only type of consultation with students with disabilities. An organisation of students with disabilities will allow more collective consultation to occur, so that students can have their voices heard to a higher degree, and people with impairments or differences can be heard, so that they can contribute to accessibility, diversity and inclusion at The University of Auckland.
Realising that even the room booking system could do with some improvement, this is something that students should be able to bring up together, so that we aren’t feeling like we are the only students who these issues are affecting. Here’s to the start of our Auckland Disabled Students’ Association.
If you would like to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org