Sunday, September 06, 2009

Deaf student says university did not provide enough help

Source Link - Deaf student says university did not provide enough help

A DEAF student is suing La Trobe University for allegedly failing to provide skilled interpreters and routinely forcing her to prove she was deaf, despite her condition being permanent.

Mariana Crvenkovic, 24, also claims a staff member told her that ''if her English was not good enough, she should not be undertaking the course''.

The university denies it has discriminated against Ms Crvenkovic, who is profoundly deaf and started a four-year pharmacy degree at La Trobe in 2006.

Because of her disability, she needs a full-time Auslan interpreter and a full-time note-taker for all lectures and tutorials. The university told her she would be provided with support, her statement of claim before the Federal Court alleges.

But, shortly after Ms Crvenkovic started studying, she lodged the first of numerous complaints to the university, including that unqualified note-takers were not taking proper notes, and interpreters were not experienced enough to keep up with the technical aspects of her pharmacy course.

For one of her lectures, there had been no interpreter or note-taker for a whole semester, Ms Crvenkovic claims.

The 24-year-old now has panic attacks, anxiety and depression and sees a psychologist. She had planned to live on campus and mix with other students but because of stress and anxiety has not taken up residence in the flat she paid for, her claim states.

''I don't go out much because I'm likely to cry - it has affected my whole life,'' she told The Age. ''And on the weekends I have to study to try and catch up on the stuff I'm missing.''

Ms Crvenkovic is claiming damages from the university and costs, saying she had to pay for private tutoring and extra course fees for a subject she failed.

The university denies the claims and said it would be inappropriate to comment because the matter was before the court.

Kerry Ferguson, pro vice-chancellor of equity and student services, said La Trobe considered each student's individual needs. "La Trobe employs trained note-takers,'' Dr Ferguson said. ''This training is conducted by the university and usually involves high-performing students who are undertaking studies in the discipline and therefore best placed to take notes.

''We employ level 3 Auslan interpreters from VicDeaf where possible. This is the highest level of accreditation.''

But Access Law human rights advocate Julie Phillips, who represents Ms Crvenkovic, said it was sad that her client had managed to gain entry to university, only to be undermined.

''Despite the Federal Government recognising Auslan as a language for some years, deaf people still have to fight to get an education through Auslan interpreters,'' Ms Phillips said.