Sharon Kerr talks to Cathy Easte, one of the outstanding disability service officers in the Griffith University Disabilities Service Team
In a recent article for the L. H Martin Institute I highlighted the achievements of Samantha Alexander, a young Darug woman who graduated from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at a grade point average of 6.5/7. Samantha started to lose her sight at 21 and if it were not for outstanding support, guidance and training in the use of assistive technologies that she received from Cathy Easte and the university’s Disabilities Service, her dreams and hopes for an education and career would have been diminished.
Why was it that Griffith University was able to support Samantha on her pathway to success and achievement, while other universities appeared unable to offer similar backing?
In many ways, Cathy Easte’s own story supplies a large part of the answer. During our talk it became clear that Cathy had walked the path of being both a student and an employee with a disability. With a severe hearing loss, Cathy was in the first group of deaf people in Australia who graduated as teachers in the 1980s. Her aim to be a teacher, however, was thwarted by regulations and administrators of the day in Queensland who were not open to having deaf people be teachers of the deaf.
In short, Cathy’s sense of understanding and commitment to serving students has grown out of her personal, lived experience. She knows what it is like to have others act as the gatekeepers to life opportunities, their focus only on a disability, and closing their eyes to ability, potential and the human right to participate fully in society. Continue reading