D.D.A. guide: Getting an education
A person with a disability has a right to study at any educational institution in the same way as any other student.
The DDA makes it against the law for an educational authority to discriminate against someone because that person has a disability.
This includes all public and private educational institutions, primary and secondary schools, and tertiary institutions such as TAFE, private colleges and universities.
What should educators do?
Educators must offer a person with a disability the same educational opportunities as everyone else. This means that if a person with a disability meets the necessary entry requirements of a school or college he or she should have just as much chance to study there as anyone else.
Educators must base their decisions on a person's ability to meet the essential requirements of the course. They should not make assumptions about what a person can or cannot do because of a disability.
The DDA protects people with a disability against discrimination in education in the following areas:
- Refusal or failure to accept an application for admission from a person with a disability
- Accepting a person with a disability as a student on less favourable terms or conditions than others. For example, asking a person with a disability to pay higher fees.
- Denying or limiting access to people with a disability. For example, not allowing a person to attend excursions or join in school sports, delivering lectures in an inaccessible format, inaccessible student common rooms.
- Expelling a person because of a disability, or
- Subjecting a person with a disability to any other detriment.
- Humiliating comments or actions about a person's disability, such as insults, or comments or actions which create a hostile environment.
What about course changes?
If a person with a disability meets the essential entry requirements, then educators must make changes or "reasonable adjustments" if that person needs them to perform essential course-work.
For example, a student may not be able to perform dissections in a biology course because the bench is too high. The ability to reach a certain height is not an essential part of dissection. The student would be perfectly capable of performing the tasks of the lab session if provided with a lower table.
In most situations the person with a disability will be able to tell educators what he or she needs to be able to study. If necessary, educators should also seek advice from government agencies or organisations which represent or provide services to people with a disability.
Adjustments could include:
- Modifying educational premises. For example, making ramps, modifying toilets and ensuring that classes are in rooms accessible to the person with a disability.
- Modifying or providing equipment. For example, lowering lab benches, enlarging computer screens, providing specific computer software or an audio loop system.
- Changing assessment procedures. For example, allowing for alternative examination methods such as oral exams, or allowing additional time for someone else to write an exam for a person with a disability.
- Changing course delivery. For example, providing study notes or research materials in different formats or providing a sign language interpreter for a deaf person.
What if changes are too difficult for educators?
The D.D.A. does not require changes to be made if this will cause major difficulties or unreasonable costs to a person or organisation. This is called "unjustifiable hardship". Before considering to claim adjustments are unjustified, educators need to:
- Thoroughly consider how an adjustment might be made
- Discuss this directly with the person involved, and
- Consult relevant sources of advice.
If adjustments cause hardship it is up to the education authority to show that they are unjustified.
More information is also available on the Commission website