STEPS Disability advocate nominated as Champion of Change
Today we celebrate World Access to Higher Education Day, a day where we draw our attention to the global inequality surrounding access to higher education. While the creation of equal opportunities is always a matter close to our hearts at STEPS, this year we are especially involved due to the nomination of one of our colleagues, David Swayn, as a Champion for Change with Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA) and the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE). These Champions for Change are nominated in recognition for their hard work in improving access to higher education. The champions are noted by the National Centre as people “who regularly go above and beyond to make the Australasian tertiary education landscape more inclusive and accessible for everyone.” David has proudly worked with STEPS since 2016 and is an avid and passionate advocate for improving tertiary education access for those with disabilities. David is recognised for his ongoing work to improve access, participation and employment outcomes for students with disability and was instrumental in the creation of University Specialist Employment Partnerships (USEP). USEP now operates at 13 Australian Universities, and is designed to provide individualised and specialist career support to students with disability, utilising staff from Disability Employment Services to work alongside University careers and equity staff.
Speaking with David about his nomination, David offered his thanks to the EPHEA for the recognition.
“Thank you to Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA) for facilitating this award, to recognise the work that often goes on ‘behind the scenes’.
“It certainly is a delight to do what I do because of the people I get to work with along the way.
“We have so many focused and passionate professionals in Australia willing and able to make a positive difference for students with disability in tertiary education and I’m honoured to work alongside you.
“Together we really can make positive change, as we shift through 2020 toward the future.”
David’s passion grew from personal experience, with David facing inaccessibility during his education due to his colour vision deficiency. One of David’s greatest passions surrounds the removal of barriers for people with colour vision deficiency, as well as furthering protections and inclusive design in the Australian landscape.
David also took the time to note the specific difficulties that have arisen in 2020.
“This year has been very challenging for so many in the Tertiary Education sector including in the equity field.
“An Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) Survey had a quote in it that really stuck in my head.
“One practitioner wrote that it was overwhelming having to be the support for students, staff and family while going through the same worries for yourself.
“This year we saw the sector show up to support each other – getting innovative, talking and sharing ideas, strategies, resources, fears, hopes and more.
“Next, we will need to focus effort on graduate opportunity availability and supporting students to understand and articulate their unique skills, viewpoints and experience in the current environment.”
David also added that he is looking forward to working with his colleagues to develop and implement national training focusing on Universal Design for Learning in Tertiary Education, due to begin early 2021.
Our wholehearted congratulations go to David for all that he has achieved and for all that we know he will go on to accomplish.