The University of Sydney's uni 2 beyond initiative has launched a crowdfunding campaign to save its award winning program for people with intellectual disabilities.
One of only two initiatives of its kind nationally, uni 2 beyond boosts students' confidence and independence, builds their work-ready skills, broadens their social networks, and promotes inclusion on campus.
The crowdfunding campaign hopes to raise $20,000 to continue uni 2 beyond’s work, which currently supports 11 students, has 50 peer mentors engaged each semester and boasts 23 alumni.
We are all the same. It's just that some of us need a little extra support.
The initiative lost its core funding for 2018 due to financial changes between the NSW and Commonwealth governments brought about by the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The crowd funding campaign coincides with the 20-year anniversary of the Centre for Disability Studies, which contributes to research, teaching, workforce development and clinical practice that supports disability policy and practice.
"Post high school options are fairly limited for many people with intellectual disability,” says Professor Patricia O’Brien, Director of the Centre for Disability Studies.
uni 2 beyond helps students experience a rite of passage that is open to many people – to go to university and have a typical student experience.
uni 2 beyond helps students experience a rite of passage that is open to many people – to go to university and have a typical student experience.”
uni 2 beyond coordinator, Jemima MacDonald, says: "The students attend lectures and tutorials supported by a University of Sydney peer mentors, and complete individual learning projects on up to two subjects each semester.
“This not only enhances their sense of belonging but it also helps University of Sydney students' capacity to become real advocates and supporters of social inclusion.”
Each uni 2 beyond student is matched with a peer mentor who provides support and guidance in social and learning settings within the university.
Current uni 2 beyond student, Kylie Scott has a full life running her own business, doing public speaking and advocacy and is involved in creative arts. She has presented widely – at national and international conferences, at workshops for government entities, at schools, and at staff training seminars.
Her talks highlight ways to include and assist people with disabilities to be included and valued in communities, workplaces and education settings like universities.
It’s important that the focus for everyone should be on ability – not disability.
“Really,” says Kylie, “I want to speak up for people who can't. We all need to be understood and supported.”
Kylie, who has Down Syndrome says her experiences have equipped her to share her story for the benefit of others. “It’s important that the focus for everyone should be on ability – not disability,” she says.
Kylie has qualified for a Certificate III in Business, has represented Australia at the 2003 and 2007 Special Olympics, and has enjoyed a range of paid and voluntary employment.
uni 2 beyond was introduced to the University of Sydney by Professor Patricia O’Brien in 2012. Now in its fifth year, it has grown from five students in 2012 to 11 current students and an alumni group of 23, who have studied across six faculties including Arts, Education and Social Work, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the Business School and Health Sciences.
The uni 2 beyond initiative was recognised with an Innovative Practice 2016 award by the Zero Project in 2017 in an award ceremony at the United Nations Office in Vienna. It also won the 2017 NSW Disability Industry Innovation Award in the category Leadership in Community Accessibility and Inclusion.
Click here to support the uni 2 beyond crowdfunding campaign.