Nice to Meet You – Karen Roberts




Each week, we interview someone from around Adelaide who might be helpful during your time as an international student. This week’s guest:

Karen Roberts, Disability Support Coordinator
Disability Support


What types of disabilities do you mainly see?
A lot of our students register for mental health conditions. That could be, for example, anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD – that kind of thing.

So it doesn’t have to be an obvious physical condition, like being in a wheelchair.
No. A lot of conditions are hidden, and no one else might know there’s something going on.

A lot of students have hidden disabilities – health conditions, ongoing medical conditions like chronic fatigue, learning difficulties… vision or hearing issues, students on the Autism Spectrum, or a physical disability, or a temporary injury, like a sporting injury where students break their leg or fracture their arm.

So it’s a pretty wide range of things?
Yes. As long as students have a diagnosis and can provide medical documentation, we may be able to provide assistance.


It’s better to think of it as an ‘ongoing medical condition’. If you’re not sure, send us an email or come and have a chat


Ok, so students should see a doctor before they come to see you?
A doctor or a medical specialist. A treating health practitioner.

What sorts of support can students access for those disabilities?
We look at all areas of studies – lectures, tutorials, exams, placements, field trips, and we look at adjustments in each of those areas. So it might be, if students have difficulty attending, we can sometimes negotiate flexibility around that, or help negotiate extensions to assignments, or organise alternative exam arrangements, which means students can sit in a smaller venue with, for example, additional time or equipment. It’s tailored to the student’s case, and confidential.

That sounds pretty good – but what do you mean by confidential? Will my lecturer know about my disability?
Lecturers will know that students are registered with Disability Support, but they won’t know the reason that student is registered – unless the student chooses to disclose that information. We talk about the impact of the disability on the student, but not what the actual disability is.

Does that information appear on my transcript, or anywhere like that?
No. Nothing on the transcript. It’s confidential in that respect.

You mentioned about learning difficulties – what if I suspect that I have some sort of disability, but have never been diagnosed? What’s the first step?
If it’s a learning difficulty, come and have a chat with disability support. We can talk through your options. Another step might be to talk to your doctor, if you think there’s an ongoing medical condition.

What isn’t considered a disability?
We wouldn’t provide support for short-term illnesses, like the flu – students would need to complete a MACA for that. If a condition can be corrected – for example, by wearing glasses – that wouldn’t be counted as a vision impairment. And students are not given extra time for English as a second language.

So what if I don’t think of my condition as a ‘disability’?
We have to be called ‘Disability’ Support because of the legislation. But it’s better to think of it as an ‘ongoing medical condition’. If you’re not sure, send us an email or come and have a chat. Basically, if there’s anything impacting your studies, you may be eligible for support.

Even if I don’t personally think of it as a ‘disability’.
Yes. It doesn’t mean that you’re broken.


You can contact Disability Support by emailing or calling them on 8313 5962.



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