This year, International Day of People With Disability coincides with the first anniversary of the Queensland Human Rights Act and an easing of COVID-19 restrictions nationally.

With a seat on the Queensland Parliament Human Rights Advisory Committee, Griffith University’s Professor Susan Harris Rimmer said the international COVID-19 response left a lot to be desired. Those sentiments have also been echoed by the Royal Commission.

“Disability rights are seen as the last frontier in the human rights movement,” Professor Harris Rimmer said.

“On one hand, we made 10 years’ progress in terms of telehealth and other services transitioning online. However, many people who have a disability rely on the provision of in-person services, which were abruptly discontinued during the pandemic.

“We need to be better prepared for events like this in the future.”

Dr Camila Shirota and research assistant Redha Alrikabi from Griffith University’s Hopkins Centre, a research centre that focuses on people with lived experience and inclusivity, are looking for ways to achieve this.

Redha Alrikabi

Researcher Redha Alrikabi.

“Our latest research is about how we can use technology to improve rehabilitation services that are delivered remotely in the wake of COVID-19,” Dr Shirota said.

“We’re looking at ways mixed reality, personal devices and robotics can facilitate healthcare where it can’t be delivered in-person,” Mr Alrikabi added.

In recognising the different needs of its own student population, Griffith University’s student support service Student Disability and Accessibility was one of the first teams back on campus.

Cathy Easte

Student Disability and Accessibility manager Cathy Easte.

Student Disability and Inclusion Manager Mrs Cathy Easte was one of the first people to graduate with a teaching degree and profound deafness in Queensland during the 1980s.

“I’m passionate about access to education and employment outcomes for people that have a disability,” Mrs Easte said.

“It was of the utmost importance for my team to continue to operate remotely at the height of the pandemic in Queensland but we were also eager to return to campus when it was safe, knowing that in-person service is necessary too,” she said.

Harry Rodgers

Bachelor of Business student Harry Rodgers.

New Colombo scholar and Griffith Honours College student Harry Rodgers can vouch for the Student Disability and Accessibility service.

“I definitely made use of the resources and help that the team provides like exam timetabling and accessible readings and other course material,” Harry said.

“My online experience has been good, but I’m looking forward to getting back onto a bustling campus.

“It’ll be good to see my tutors and classmates, not just virtually.”