Te Pūkenga , the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology has recently published a research report about an ideal approach towards caring for disabled learners to make them successful. According to the essence of this report,
Providing a safe, accessible, and supportive learning environment to flourish.
Building the disability confidence of staff
Enabling more academic and employment pathways
would help them accomplish more in their academics and further in their life.
The initiation of this research stretches back into 2020 beginning when a small research team travelled across New Zealand to understand what helps and prevents learners to attain success throughout their education journey. The team focused to understand how to better serve the groups such as Māori, Pacific and disabled learners. The reports were made possible by interviewing 315 participants in 45 focus groups from Whangarei to Invercargill, online and face to face.
The Insights gained from these interactions with disabled learners and their staff looks at barriers faced by the learners with disabilities and the enablers to resolve these barriers. The learning environments and components of the system are primarily designed with the group of non-disabled students as their user persona. This will create learning barriers for capable disabled learners.
Impairment related learning supports needs to be introduced in teaching, learning and assessment to support the disabled learners and their teaching staff to encourage their participation in the vocational education system. The success of these efforts will happen only if people at all levels of the vocational education system take responsibility for supporting disabled learners.
The words of the Deputy Chief Executive Learner Journey and Experience Tania Winslade are:
"With the right support, disabled learners are just as likely to complete their tertiary qualification as non-disabled people. We need to enable more academic and employment pathways to support our underserved learners."
“When we consider 24 percent of us will have an impairment lasting six months or more, enabling success for disabled learners impacts significant numbers of learners and staff. Access to the right learning supports makes an enormous difference to their academic achievement and life in general.”
“We are excited for the future, removing barriers, improving accessibility, and building connectivity for all, especially our traditionally underserved learners. We are now developing an action plan to address Te Rito recommendations for incorporating into network-wide strategy,”
Te Pūkenga has released two further Te Rito reports which build on the first report focused on all learners, particularly Māori learners.
The Kia Ōrite Toolkit has been developed by the Tertiary Education Commission and Achieve and includes a range of tools to assist tertiary education providers to develop Disability Action Plans. Until this occurs, disabled learners will continue to experience the various barriers in the vocational education system that are described in the study report.
It was recommended that; disabled learners should be active partners in the development and review of the action plan and different elements of the new system. Staff within vocational education should be provided with guidance and training on the use of non-discriminatory practices. Every reasonable effort should be made to accommodate disabled learners, and in circumstances where this is not practical, alternative
options should be explored.