Access To Mainstream Services

We aim to find ways of making mainstream services more accessible and responsive to people with cognitive disabilities. These services will continue to provide the vast majority of services and supports required by people with disabilities despite the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Our current research is focused on hospital services, the education system and electoral processes.


Find out more information about our projects and research. Below is a list of our current projects with links to research papers.

Inclusive education

An inclusive education system brings many benefits. From individual benefits like learning, employment opportunities, and psychosocial well-being to benefits for society, seen in better cost efficiencies (for example, only running one type of school and decreasing discrimination). Many students enjoy being in groups with their peers. Learning among diverse group of peers enriches the experiences for people with disability.

Increasingly, mainstream systems cater to people with disability. Disability specific education services are under pressure and there has been a sustained push to include people with disability in mainstream services. This research theme explores the challenges, successes and ways forward in making education more inclusive.

Supporting inclusion in mainstream schools

Professor Teresa Iacono, Dr Amanda Kenny, Dr Carol McKinstry

Developing options to enable specialist schools to become “Centres of Expertise” to support inclusion in mainstream schools.

This project explores options for how the expertise in Specialist Schools could be harnessed to support mainstream schools to be inclusive of students with disabilities. Funding for this project was awarded by the Victorian Principals’ Association of Specialist Schools (PASS) to a team lead by Professor Teresa Iacono. The project also brings together stakeholders from across La Trobe University and specialist and mainstream school communities to co-design options for how specialist schools can become “Centres of Expertise” to support inclusive education.

View the report

Co-designing online modules to strengthen inclusive educational supports for children with disability though collaboration with allied health

Professor Teresa Iacono, Drs. Nerida Hyett, Jo Spong, Carol McKinstry, Kerryn Bagley, Oriane Landry

Co-designing on-line modules to strengthen inclusive educational supports for children with disability through collaboration with allied health.

This project was funded by an Information, Linkages, and Capacity building (ILC) Readiness grant (2017). It brings together allied health (Teresa Iacono, Carol McKinstry, Nerida Hyett, Oriane Landry, Kerryn Bagley) and education (Mary Keeffe) researchers, in partnership with mainstream and
special education schools, and an allied health practice in Bendigo. A co-design group comprising parents of children with disability, education staff, and allied health practitioners developed the content for an online package to support the development of reasonable adjustments within mainstream schools to support the inclusion of students with disability. The package demonstrates how these supports can maintain a childfocus, while meeting requirements under the NDIS and The Program for Students with Disability funding.

View the resource

Building healthy communities with the Social Model of Disability: A randomized controlled trial of shifting perceptions to enhance inclusive school education

This project has been funded by a Building Healthy Communities Research Focus Area grant (2018-2019). Building on their previous work, the team comprises Teresa Iacono, Nerida Hyett, Jo Spong, Kerryn Bagley (La Trobe Rural Health School), Oriane Landry (Psychology) and Michael Arthur-Kelly (University of Newcastle). They are developing a Reasonable Adjustments for Inclusive Education rating scale and using it to test the efficacy of an educational intervention on designing supports for school students with disability.

Health System

Supporting the inclusion of people with cognitive disabilities in the health system

Professors Christine Bigby, Teresa Iacono and Jacinta Douglas

Previous reports suggest that the health system stands out as being unresponsive to the particular requirements of people with disabilities and their families as a consequence of their needs and circumstances being poorly understood within a healthcare context. We take people with cognitive disability (intellectual disability and traumatic brain injury) as the exemplar group of service users with disability. Their healthcare outcomes are poor and resource use is high. Key to redressing this problem is that staff and service delivery processes make the adjustments required to accommodate their needs. This study, funded by the National Disability Research Agenda, has been conducted across three hospital systems from metropolitan and rural locations. Findings for 60 adults with cognitive disability show that they are high-end users of Emergency Departments (with 179 encounters documented over a period of 35 months). There was no evidence of systematic problem practices; rather, hospital staff applied good practice and often made accommodations to meet the needs of this patient group. The findings indicated the longer than benchmark time of 4 hours required to provide quality care for people with cognitive disabilities in  Emergency Departments.

It also showed that when problems did occur they often stemmed from a lack of collaboration between the health and disability sectors. There was also poor understanding about their respective roles together with family members in supporting hospital encounters for people with cognitive disabilities who found it difficult to express or explain their own needs. The full report is available online together with a series of checklists for
Delivering High Quality Care for People with Disabilities in Hospital

View the reports