Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability

Pathways15: Using Covid-19 as an Opportunity to Change Practice and Promote a New Perspective on Assistive Technologies

Fiona Thomas, Texthelp; Sally Leggo, and Natalie McLaughlin, Western Sydney University

Western Sydney University first partnered with Texthelp to provide students with access to Read&Write in 2017. Initially, uptake was limited to staff and students with a workplace Reasonable Adjustment Plan (RAP) or Academic Integration Plan (AIP) in place. A change of perspective ensued as the broader appeal and value of this toolbar was recognised. Fast forward to 2020 with University plans to move to an inclusive environment where disclosure of disability is not a requirement to gain access to Assistive Technology (AT). Western has used the disruption of COVID-19 to re-focus resources and begin a strategic roll-out of Read&Write across the wider University (both staff and students).

We will discuss how Western has begun to build a diverse base of Assistive Technology (AT) champions and supporters amongst staff and students, getting digital accessibility and AT into the discussions of key decision makers and change agents across Western and embedding the idea of inclusion through technology in new initiatives, systems and practices. Importantly, we'll share around the uptake and impact of these initiatives.


Fiona is a member of the AsiaPAC Texthelp team, formerly an Assistant Principal and Assistive Technology Advisor for the Department of Education in New South Wales. She holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education and has worked across primary and secondary settings in NSW and Victoria for more than 30 years. Over that time, Fiona has been an avid user of technology to support the teaching and learning needs of the diverse range of students in her classrooms. Extending that role further by guiding and supporting other educators embarking on their own technology adventures.

Sally is an Assistive Technology Specialist for Western Sydney University. She has a firm belief in the power of technology to create a more inclusive, engaging and efficient education, working and social environment. Sally has a background in web management, digital accessibility and training development and delivery with over 10 years’ experience delivering technology training and support. At present, Sally is focusing on the strategic positioning of AT and the development of inclusive and accessible practices across the University. With a deep love of Auslan and Deaf culture, Sally is also an active member of her local deaf community.

With over 20 years’ experience in higher education Natalie’s primary focus continues to be the enhancement of the student experience, which she now supports through her work as an Assistive Technology Specialist at Western Sydney University. An enthusiastic and dedicated professional, Natalie provides personalised programs to support students and staff with their assistive technology requirements. A strong advocate of equity and accessibility, Natalie works within the Assistive Technology team to consistently prioritise the development and support of their clients and work to develop initiatives to excel in inclusion through technology.