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Blazing a trail towards a career in media

Friday, 09 December 2016

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A curiosity about the world and a desire to inform society is behind deafblind student Vanessa Vlajkovic’s decision to study Journalism at ECU.

Vanessa is the first deafblind person in WA to obtain university entry via the ATAR pathway.

Vanessa was born blind and by the age of four had learned Braille. However, at seven her hearing began to deteriorate and by 16 hearing aids were no longer any use. It was then her communication method changed to Auslan only.

Due to her limited vision, the Auslan is ‘tactile’, meaning the signs are formed on Vanessa’s hands.

She is studying journalism at ECU which Vanessa said seemed like the perfect match for her.

“I’ve always loved reading and writing, and I’m overly curious about most things so a journalism degree seemed like the perfect one for me.”

Vanessa said in some ways her university experience is similar to her fellow students.

“I’ve had the stress of doing assignments last-minute and having many sleepless nights as a result. I’m no different to your average uni student in that regard,” she said.

Getting the support to overcome unique challenges

However, Vanessa acknowledges that there are unique study challenges she faces.

“First semester was a big challenge and quite frustrating, the uni needed to adapt to me and I to them. They had no previous experience with deafblind people therefore I needed to teach them many things.”

That’s where ECU’s support for its students with special needs comes in.  

“ECU have been great by providing me with interpreters for all classes, as well as highly skilled note-takers.

“The University have also purchased a BrailleNote Touch for me which has been helpful to have more than one option when it comes to Braille,” she said.

Multiple award winner

She was recently awarded the Positive Achievement Award and WA Young Person of the Year at the 2016 WA Youth Awards.

This accolade follows a string of other achievements including winning the City of Stirling ‘Tough Nut’ Award and being named Deaf Youth of Australia, 2015.

For more information about how ECU provides support for students with diverse study needs, check out ECU’s Student Equity, Diversity and Disability Service webpage.

If you’re interested in studying Journalism at ECU, visit our Arts and Humanities webpages.

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