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D.D.A. guide: Getting an education

Disability Disability Rights
Friday 14 December, 2012


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:

Admission

  • 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.

Access

  • 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.

Harassment

  • 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

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