UCOL Horowhenua’s hard work over the last few months to better welcome students with dyslexia, brings them a step closer in their goal to being the first Institute of Technology Polytechnic (ITP) in the country awarded Ako Aotearoa’s Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark (DFQM).
The DFQM is a new initiative to promote a supportive learning environment for dyslexic people. The initiative is a first for the Southern Hemisphere, and is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission.
Ako Aotearoa announced the DFQM in April this year, and UCOL quickly applied to take part, making them the only ITP to be accepted for the pilot initiative. Once accepted by Ako Aotearoa and TEC, UCOL began assessing its current environment and resources for students, mapping them against highly detailed dyslexia-friendly standards.
It’s estimated that one in seven children may have some form of dyslexia, and up to 10% of our adult population in New Zealand. “Vocational education is a great pathway for people with dyslexia, offering practical courses in an adult learning space that’s different from school,” says Vicky Beckwith, Literacy and Numeracy Leader - UCOL.
“By embedding dyslexia-friendly practices within our culture, we can better ensure the success of our whānau. In a learning environment designed to help, not hinder, they can better recognise their potential and unleash their creativity, while developing more meaningful relationships with the staff here supporting them,” she continues.
The eight week pilot initiative was followed by time afterwards for further improvement and preparation. The UCOL team have worked hard, doing multiple walk-throughs of the campus, evaluating the signage, resources, and support provided. UCOL is currently awaiting a final verification visit from Ako Aotearoa.
“Ako Aotearoa provided us with a self-assessment checklist which was very simple to follow, and it became relatively straightforward for us to make changes, thanks to the positive attitude of our staff,” says Beckwith. The ITP plans on rolling this initiative out to its other campuses in Manawatū, Whanganui, and Wairarapa.