Being inclusive on Global Accessibility Awareness Day

 In Our Stories

Global Accessibility Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of four barriers when it comes to internet usage challenges: visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive.

While there is a range of available online resources for young adults with disabilities and autism, most of these resources are self-led and can make individuals feel even more isolated when they need assistance or cognitive support.

STEPS Pathways College is helping to bridge this gap by providing online classes to any young adults with a disability and autism.

The College has a range of students from across Australia, students who also range in age, background, and abilities.

Instead of having to interact with confusing and vague fact sheets and activities alone, students who attend STEPS Pathways College online are able to learn essential skills through one-on-one and in group lessons with trained teachers.

These teachers offer specialised support and learning to each student, with the end goal of the program being students living independently in their communities.

Students also have the opportunity to make lifelong friendships with other students and learn with other young adults in an understanding and encouraging environment.

Three online students – Bianca, BahLee, and Zanda – all volunteered their time to speak about the importance of having online structures available to those with disabilities.

The three students have all been with STEPS Pathways College for around a year and all say they “love” the program.

“I can be myself here,” Bianca shared.

“The teachers have boosted my confidence and maintained it.

“I have only had one teacher that I felt comfortable with previously, but I’m comfortable with every teacher here.”

Bianca also shared that she found the ability to “turn off” an essential part of making her feel comfortable in the class.

“When I’m overwhelmed, I can just turn my screen off; you can’t do that in person,” Bianca added.

Another student, BahLee, speaks of how essential it is for students to be able undertake an online format if it’s what makes them comfortable.

“I feel like I don’t have to mask as much when I’m online,” BahLee said.

“When I go to an in-person class, I have to mask all the time and I come home exhausted and tired.”

Zanda, who is 15 years old and lives in Tasmania, says that he prefers the familiarity of the online program over a face-to-face interaction.

“I like the online program because I’m used to being on the computer; it’s familiar to me.”

Female teacher instructing student over zoom

STEPS Pathways College teacher Kaz conducting a one-on-one online cooking lesson

Karen Caldwell, the Pathways Training Principal of STEPS Pathways College and one of the online teachers, shared the motivation that started the program.

“Young adults with a disability and autism are often faced with trying to learn essential skills online by themselves,” Ms. Caldwell said.

The online program ensures that every young adult with a disability and autism has the same access to opportunity as everyone else.

“Whether a student is unable to attend due to their location or because they don’t always feel comfortable with interacting in person, we want to make sure that these young adults don’t miss out on the chance to be independent.”

The online program has received rave reviews from the wider community, with the Minister for the NDIS specifically crediting the program as “a world leading model”.

“Rural and remote areas continue to not receive the services they need because of the thinness of markets,” Mr. Robert said.

“This is why it is so wonderful to see the online program that STEPS Pathways College is running here, so that people with disabilities have the opportunity to engage regardless of where they live.

“Together, as STEPS is showing, we can do profoundly great things in our community.”

If you or someone you know would benefit from the life-changing experience of STEPS Pathways College, contact the College on (07) 5458 3000 or email pathways@stepsgroup.com.au

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STEPS Pathways College volunteer Robyn with studentsStuart Coward shakes hands with Linda Ritchie as she accepts her award and smiles for the camera