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2 February 2023

The newest technology to become available to students and staff throughout universities in Australia and world-wide, has stirred quite a lot of debate in the world of academia. But it also brings into question a broader discussion on accessibility in higher education and is an important topic that students with disability are advocating for.

ChatGPT was launched in November of 2022 by OpenAI, based in San Francisco, and has now become a multibillion-dollar investment for Microsoft. Driven by artificial intelligence, it is a natural language tool that allows users to have interactions that are more human-like, with a chatbot. Currently free, the application can do such tasks as composing emails, creating computer code and answering questions.

In the world of academia this has been used by staff and students alike. Professors have been utilising ChatGPT for class activities and lesson plans, and students have been using it as a research tool for assignments, essays and research papers. They have been able to do this by asking the application to create them.

As such, universities are starting to crack down on this AI, with concerns over the authenticity of students work. Students and educators with disability, however, believe that the potential for accessibility should not be overlooked. Many students use AI and technology for converting on-screen text to speech, amongst many other adjustments.

Disability advocates believe there is tremendous potential and that universities should look at different approaches. Students with disability are entitled under Australian state and federal law to “reasonable adjustments” in the classroom. Advocates encourage academia not to dismiss new technology, as it can be a revolutionary tool. They urge universities to embrace the technology.   

For more information about what ChatGPT and AI mean for higher education for students with disability, refer to the Japan Times article on Australian universities cracking down on ChatGPT.