Staff Information | Legislation

Access to Learning Project

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Learning and Teaching Resources

compiled by Lotte Hammer

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The legislation

The amended Disability Discrimination Act (1995) (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/1995050.htm) makes it:

unlawful to discriminate against disabled people or students by treating them less favourably than others. In addition, it requires responsible bodies to provide certain types of reasonable adjustments to provision where disabled students or other disabled people who might otherwise be substantially disadvantaged.

There is, as yet, little case law in this field as most challenges brought about under the legislation have tended to be settled out of court. Nevertheless, it is still possible to determine what is likely to be unlawful. The ‘Code of Practice for providers of Post-16 education and related services’ includes many useful examples as does the DRC website.

Future case law will help to define the legislation but in the meantime, examples in the resources should help to construct what constitutes good practice in accessible learning and teaching in Higher Education.

The wording of the law will ultimately be interpreted by a court should it be tested but there is some assistance in the legislation to assist the understanding of key concepts:

  1. less favourably - Treating a disabled person less favourably in comparison with how other people are or would be treated. So if a disabled applicant was asked to undergo any additional tasks or produce any additional documents which a non-disabled applicant was not, this would be discriminating against that applicant.
  2. reasonable adjustments – Changes that can be made to the way a students accesses learning & teaching and assessment opportunities. These should be negotiated in consultation with the student and the Disability Resource Centre (DRC), if advice is required. There are caveats to what is deemed ‘reasonable’:
    1. academic standards should not be compromised by any adjustments only the means by which these standards are met by the student.
    2. financial security of the institution should not be compromised by any proposed adjustments, this would be a difficult defence as most adjustments are not costly and would be deemed affordable by Universities.
    3. the experience of other students should not be negatively affected by the adjustments made for students with disabilities. If this is claimed to be the case, alternative solutions should be sought.
  3. substantially disadvantaged - Failing to make reasonable adjustments therefore putting a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who is not disabled. Reasonable adjustments should be enabling and provide access to the same or similar services that are available to non-disabled people.

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