Disability Legislation

What you need to know about the legislative context of supporting students with disabilties

As a result of the legislation detailed below, HE institutions have a duty of care towards students with disabilities.  This includes students with dyslexia or other specific learning difficulty. It is important to understand the legislation and to be aware of what counts as discriminatory practice.

 Disability Discrimination Act   DDA 1995   http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/1995050.htm

 Part1V Special Educational Needs and Disability Act  SENDA 2001   http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2001/20010010.htm

 DDA 2005    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2005/20050013.htm


 Below is an extract from the DDA 1995:

 ‘Discrimination against disabled applicants or students can take place in either of two ways. By:

 ·        treating them “less favourably” than other people, or

·        failing to make a “reasonable adjustment” when they are placed at a “substantial disadvantage” compared to other people

 for a reason relating to their disability.’

‘The Act applies to all the activities and facilities institutions provide wholly or mainly for students, including, for example:

·        all aspects of teaching and learning, including lectures, lab work, practicals, field trips, work placements, etc

·        e-learning, distance learning

·        examinations and assessments

·        learning resources, including libraries, computer facilities, etc

·        aspects of the physical environment such as buildings, landscaping and equipment

·        welfare, counselling and other support services

·        catering, residential and leisure facilities

·        careers services.’


Under the Act, there is a responsibility to make anticipatory adjustments. This means that institutions should consider what adjustments future disabled students or applicants may need, and make them in advance. ‘  The Disability Discrimination Act Part 4, Learning and Teaching Good Practice Guide


‘The DDA 2005 has new duties which demand a cultural shift in thinking. The DDA Part 4 placed the onus on the disabled student to enforce their own rights rather than on organisations to ensure they met their legal responsibilities.  The new focus on organisational change and the change in burden of proof provides institutions with the opportunity to examine their assessment policies and practices to ensure the gap is closed between disabled and non-disabled students’ experiences and opportunities.’  SPACE Project. Page 24


The AccessAbility Centre can give advice on matters relating to specific learning difficulties, but policies need to be framed by the University, and departments need to implement them consistently.

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The AccessAbility Centre is open 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday, during both terms and vacations. Contact us if you would like to speak with someone outside of these hours.


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