Unitec’s Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae was host to honoured guests Hon. Carmel Sepuloni, Minister of Social Development and Disability Issues, and Paula Tesoriero, the Disability Rights Commissioner, as they addressed the Northern Region Tertiary Disability Services Hui last Friday.
The hui, organised by Unitec’s Access4Success Disability Service, was attended by around 40 tertiary sector regional co-ordinators who met to discuss increasing participation and success of disabled people in tertiary education, with the aim of creating a more inclusive educational experience for all students.
Minister Sepuloni told the group that disabled New Zealanders were less likely to have educational qualifications than non-disabled. This is one contributing factor to the flow-on effect to employment, which is reflected in the fact that the employment rate for non-disabled New Zealanders is three times higher than for those with disabilities.
She advocated that tertiary education had a major role to play in addressing these statistics. Disability Rights Commissioner, Paula Tesoriero, a former gold-medal winning Paralympian, said that education was one of the key priorities in her role, given the outcomes currently experienced by disabled New Zealanders.
She stressed the importance of collaboration in helping put students at the forefront of a system that is truly inclusive and achieves the desired outcomes for disabled New Zealanders.
In his opening address the MC for the Hui, Falaniko Tominiko, Director of Pacific Success, paid tribute to Deborah Faaiuaso, Manager of Learning & Achievement, who played an integral role in the early preparation for the Hui. Deborah passed away earlier this year.
The Access4Success team is part of Unitec Student Services, and provides a range of support mechanisms to students with visible and invisible disabilities. Alongside the direct support to students, the team partners across Unitec to raise awareness and understanding of how to support students with disabilities to succeed in study and beyond.