18 May 2021

Reducing the barriers to study for people who are blind or vision impaired

20% of people in Australia identify as having a disability yet people with disability make up only 7.3% of higher education enrolments. On top of this, students with disability are the second lowest funded equity group attending tertiary institutions.

This week, Blind Citizens Australia (BCA), Australia’s national representative organisation of people who are blind or vision impaired, launched a scholarship program to support members to take up higher education.

While the Australian Government is committed to ensuring that students with disability can access and participate in higher education by ensuring teaching is accessible and giving students adaptive technology, until now there has been little financial support provided exclusively to people who are blind or vision impaired to pursue further study.

To address the financial barriers to tertiary education, BCA has launched the BCA Hugh Jeffrey Scholarship Program which is exclusively available to students who are blind or vision impaired.

Funded by the Department of Social Services and the Jeffrey Blyth Foundation, BCA’s Scholarship Program seeks to increase the opportunities available to people who are blind or vision impaired to participate in tertiary/further education and provide support for both the recipient and their chosen educational institution.

Cathy Easte is the President of the Australian Tertiary Network on Disability and she believes there are too many barriers in society for people with disabilities.

“Students with disabilities bring unique perspectives and we do not know what gifts are hidden in our students or potential students until they enter into higher education and start working towards their dreams, goals and desires,” she said.

“We have many brilliant minds out there and the BCA scholarship program may provide that edge for some individuals. Our institutions need more students who are blind and vision impaired seeking to fulfil academic aspirations and professional careers. I am pleased BCA is launching this scholarship and look forward to welcoming them in our institutions of Higher Education.”

The BCA Hugh Jeffrey Scholarship Program is offering five scholarships of up to $5,000 each per semester for the next three semesters: Semester 2, 2021, Semesters 1 and 2, 2022.

Applications for the first round of scholarships are open May 17 – June 30, 2021. Applicants must be enrolled in a post-secondary educational program that results in a recognised qualification and may request funds for specific educational expenses, including assistive technology, course materials or other expenses directly relevant to support their ability to be successful in their course of study.

Ronald Jackson, Director, Strategy & Tertiary Education at TAFE Directors Australia welcomes the financial support these scholarships offer students who are blind or vision impaired and through working with BCA he believes TAFEs will be committed to do more to assist students with disability.

“We know post-school education and training provides the knowledge and skills to participate in all aspects of daily life and leads to better employment outcomes and higher incomes, key factors in economic security and independence,” he said.

For more information/interviews please contact:

Kathie Elliott

Media Relations

Blind Citizens Australia

Phone: 0439 724 304

Email: kathie.elliott@bca.org.au