University of Edinburgh

Improve Access to Education for Pupils with Disabilities

(SEED, October 2002): Focus on Visual Impairment and Hearing Impairment

Presented in January, 2003

Lilian Lawson, SCoD - Powerpoint presentation

Disability Discrimination Act

Slide 2:
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA)
•Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001
•DDA Part IV (2001)
Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records) (Scotland) Act (2002)

Notes: According to a recent survey the the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), disabled people are twice as likely as their non-disabled peers to have no qualifications. In the UK's increasingly knowledge-based economy, this clearly puts disabled people at a serious disadvantage in the job market.

Access to education is therefore of vital importance if disabled people are to escape from unemployment and dependency on benefits, but until recently, there was little help from the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which, since 1996, has formed the core of disability rights legislation in the UK. Education was exempt from the original DDA in 1995.

However, this has now been changed. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA), which has just come into force, expands the scope of DDA to take in every aspect of both compulsory (pre-16) and further/higher education in mainland Britain. SENDA amends Part IV of the DDA.

In Scotland, the Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records)(Scotland) Act requires education providers to develop disability strategies to help all pupils with disabilities. This Act supports the DDA part IV, which makes it unlawful for education providers to discriminate against disabled pupils and prospective disabled pupils.

This improved legislation - a change the DRC estimates should benefit around 1 million people of all ages.

Slide 3:
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) defines a disabled person as "someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities"

Notes: Substantial - that is more than minor or trivial.

Long-term - that is, has lasted or is likely to last for at least a year or for the rest of life of the person affected.

This definition covers pupils with physical, sensory or mental impairments. The definition is broad and might include children with a learning disability, sensory impairment, severe dyslexia, diabetes or epilepsy, pupils who are incontinent, or who have AIDS, severe disfigurements or progressive conditions like Muscular Dystrophy.

the New Duties
What does the DDA Part IV cover? From September 2002, it will be against the law for schools, colleges and universities to discriminate in:

  • admissions
  • education and associated services
  • exclusions
Slide 4:
Who has rights under DDA
education providers?
deaf pupils
prospective deaf pupils
deaf students at colleges & universities
prospective deaf students at colleges & universities
deaf children in nurseries

Slide 5:
Who has rights under DDA
service providers?
deaf parents & carers
deaf people who take courses run by private educational providers
deaf children who attend clubs and activities run by voluntary organisations, e.g. Scouts or church youth groups
deaf children who attend private, voluntary and statutory providers of nursery education that are not constituted as schools
deaf people who attend courses run by work-based training providers

Slide 6:
Who has duties under DDA
education providers?
Pre- 16 education
Educational authority maintained nursery schools
Nursery classes and nursery provision at independent schools and grant aided schools
All schools, including independent and public-funded schools, mainstream and special schools, primary and secondary schools, non-maintained special schools and pupil referral units

Slide 7:
Who has duties under the DDA
education providers?
Post - 16 education
Institutions in the further education sector
Education authorities securing further education, including adult and community education
Schools providing further education for adults
Education authorities securing community education
Institutions in the higher education sector

Slide 8:
DDA: Schools
Education providers must not discriminate against existing and prospective disabled pupils in the three areas:


Responsible bodies must not discriminate against a deaf pupil:

  • In the way they decide who can get into the school. This includes any criteria when it is over-subscribed, and the way it operates those criteria
  • In the terms of offering deaf pupils a place at the school
  • By refusing or deliberately not accepting an application from a deaf pupil for admission to the school.

Example 1: an eleven year-old deaf girl applies to go to a school that selects its intake on the basis of academic ability. She fails the entrance test. She is refused admission. She cannot claim unlawful discrimination because she did not have the academic ability. The school has operated its selective criteria objectively.

However, if she passed the entrance test and the school still refused to admit her, the deaf girl can claim unlawful discrimination - if she can prove that the school rejected her on the basis of her deafness.

Example 2: the parents of a twelve year-old deaf boy apply for him to go to an independent school. He passes the entrace test, but when the school hears that he has a hearing loss they refuse to admit him.

This boy is turned down because the school hears that he has speech and hearing difficulties that are directly related to his deafness. This reason is related to his deafness/disability. Because the treatment is less favourable than it is for someone who does not have speech and hearing difficulties that are directly related to their deafness/disability, this is unlikely to be justified, as his treatment is not as a result of a permitted form of selection. The boy has already passed the entrance test.

Education and associated services

The Act covers all education and associated services for deaf curent and prospective deaf pupils - all aspects of school life, including extracurricular activities and school trips.

  • Preparation for entry to the school (eg: choice of school)
  • Curriculum (eg: equal access)
  • Teaching and learning
  • Classroom organisation
  • Timetabling
  • Groupings of pupils
  • Homework (eg: easier or less homework; deaf pupil with dyslexia needs time to copy homework from the blackboard)
  • Access to school facilities (eg: loop)
  • Attitudes to supplement the curriculum (eg: drama group visiting the school - HAC)
  • School sports (eg: whistle - hankie/flag)
  • School policies
  • Breaks/school meals
  • Interaction with peers
  • Assessment and exam arrangements (eg: oral exams for BSL pupils)
  • School discipline and sanctions
  • School clubs and activities
  • School trips (HAC/mobility; eg: deaf pupils cannot be excluded from a theatre trip just because they cannot hear or follow a play - the schoo has the duty to provide an interpreter or lipspeaker and to ensure that the theatre has a loop system
  • Preparation of pupils for the next phase of education

Slide 9:
DDA: Colleges & Universities
Education providers must not discriminate against existing and prospective disabled students in the areas of:

Notes: Admissions - eg: Open Days - right for deaf students to ask for a HAC; more time for interivew - slow speech

Enrolments - right for deaf students to ask for a HAC for their enrolment

Education - a deaf student has right to ask that a tutor faces her while teaching so that she can lipread him/her.

Slide 10:
DDA: Colleges & Universities
The law applies to all courses of study:
Complete courses
Single modules
Evening courses
Distant learning

Notes: Importantly, disabled students do not have to be undertaking a complete course to have these rights under the DDA; it is enough if they are enquiring about, applyint to, or undertaking any course of study at an educational institution. These include people doing single modules, evening courses or distance learning.

Slide 11:
Discrimination? How can we define it?
Discrimination will be deemed to have taken place if a deaf child or young deaf person is treated less favourably because of their impairment without justification, or if the school or college fails to take reasonable steps to avoid deaf pupils/students being placed at a "substantial disadvantage" of their deafness

Notes: Justification for less favourable treatment:
In some cases, the school can treat a deaf pupil 'less favourably' if it can provide justification that is both 'material' and 'substantial' to the particular case.

For example, a deaf pupil with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair is on a trip with her school to an outdoor centre. The teachers arrange for the school children to go on a 12-mile hike over difficult terrain, but having arranged for a detailed risk assessment that the deaf pupil should not go on the hike for health and safety reasons. In this case, the school may be able to justify the less favourable treatment.

Less favourable treatment can also be justified if it is the result of a permitted form of selection. The 'less favourable treatment' duty does not mean that deaf pupils have an excuse for disruptive or antisocial behaviour. There has to be a direct relationship between the reason for the less favourable treatment and the child's disability.

For example, a school has received a number of complaints froom local shopkeepers about the rowdy and disruptive behaviour of some of its pupils. It decided that the pupils in question should be banned from taking part in a school theatre visit because of their behaviour. One of the pupils is hard of hearing. The rowdy and disruptive behaviour is not directly related to the hard of hearing pupil's impairment. The ban from the visit may be less favourable treatment, but it is not for a reason related to the pupil's disability/deafness.

Failing to make a 'reasonable adjustment'

Schools should also take 'reasonable steps' to make sure that deaf pupils are not put at a 'substantial disadvantage' compared to non-deaf pupils.

Slide 12:
What is a "substantial disadvantage"?
The school needs to take account of a number of factors:
The time and effort that the deaf child might need to expend
The inconvenience, indignity or discomfort a deaf child might suffer
The loss of opportunity or lack of progress that a deaf child may make compared to other nor-deaf pupils

Slide 13:
What is a reasonable adjustment?
Reasonable is not defined in the legislation, but a court can consider:
The need to maintain academic, musical, sporting & other standards
Money available
Practicalities of making the particular adjustment
Grants or loans likely to he available to disabled students
Health and safety of the deaf pupil and others

Can you think of examples of reasonable adjustments? For deaf pupils and students

  • Human Aid to Communication
  • Qualified support teacher or tutor, eg: language tuition and concept support
  • Induction loop systems in classrooms, lecture halls, seminar rooms, laboratories, assemby halls, etc
  • Radio or infrared microphone systems
  • Textphone in school office, student unions, residential halls, etc
  • Access to fax machines
  • Access to email facilities
  • Deaf awareness training for school/college staff
  • BSL classes for school/college people who have lots of contact with deaf pupils and students
  • Tape recorder and costs of copy typists for recording lectures met
  • Cost of photocopying materials met
  • Word processor to assist with English, eg: grammar
  • Flashing light or vibrating pager/pad for fire alarm
  • Flashing bell for hall of residence room
  • Notetakers
  • Teletext TV and video recorder that records subtitles.

Reasonable steps for colleges and universities include

  • changing admissions, administrative and examination policies and procedures
  • changing course content, including work placements
  • changing pphysical features and premises
  • changing teaching arrangements
  • additional teaching
  • communication support
  • information in alternative formats
  • training for staff


Institutions should consider when making examination arrangements:

  • nature of disability and how it affects deaf pupil or student
  • deaf pupil/student's usual method of study
  • arrangements that the deaf pupil/student has used in previous exams (eg: at school)
  • any advice from a specialist external agency or educational psychologist
  • nature of examinations (eg: how long, multiple choice, written answers, etc)
  • extra time and rest periods
  • need longer time to read and understand questions
  • BSL interpreter to translate questions and answers
  • exam papers in alternative formats
  • scribe
  • HAC at start of exames - for instructions, etc
  • deaf awareness training for invigilators
  • changing the language of the paper

Slide 14:
Victimisation is a special form of discrimination. It applies whether or not the person who is victimised is a disabled person. It occurs when a person is treated less favourable because they have:

  • brought proceedings under the DDA
  • given evidence or information in connection with proceedings under the DDA
  • done anything else under the DDA
  • alleged someone has breached the DDA

When do schools and colleges need to take action?

Schools have a duty to all deaf and disabled pupils and potential pupils, not just individuals. Schools cannot wait until a deaf pupil has arrived before making adjustments as they may find themselves already in breach of the law. They need to think ahead to what they might need to do, and should keep policies under review to ensure that they do not discriminate against disabled children. Initial action is needed in advance of the duties taking effect in September 2002.

Two key tests to consider might be to ensure that:

  1. policies, procedures and practices are not in themselves discriminatory
  2. that they provide the school with the flexibility required to respond to individual needs

Schools are advised to take steps to find out whether children being admitted to their school or existing pupils have a disability

There will be a responsibility on education providers to do what they can to find out whether individual have disability-related needs. However, if an institution has made reasonable attempts to find out, but an individual student has chosen not to disclose their disability or need, the institution will not be liable for any failure to make specific individual adjustments.

How can schools find out? They should ask people whether they have a disability

Slide 15:

Should a deaf student disclose his/her deafness?

  • Application forms
  • Applying for accommodation
  • On enrolment
  • Registering for exams
  • Registering for field trips or outings of other sorts

Slide 16:
When do discrimination provisions come into effect

Less favourable treatment - from September 2002

Reasonable adjustments - from September 2002 BUT from September 2003, in colleges & universities if auxiliary aids and services, eg: radio aids, interpreters, portable loops, etc are needed

Slide 17:
Do schools need to provide "auxiliary aids or services" under the DDA?
Schools have no duty under the DDA to provide auxiliary aids and services because this is covered by special education needs law

Slide 18:
Do schools need to make "reasonable adjustments" to buildings and the physical environment?

Schools have no duty to make physical alterations BUT they have to make three-year accessibility strategies (or access plans) about alterations that are needed to make their curriculum accessible, written information and the physical environment more accessible.

Schools need to do four things:

  1. evaluate their existing provision, procedures, physical access, curriculum access, teaching delivery styles, staff training provision and all other services and assess whether any aspects of that provision might put a disabled student at a 'substantial disadvantage'
  2. assess the 'reasonableness' of any adjustments that might be made to allay that disadvantage - cost and time to put an adjustment in place if it was left until it was actually needed (eg: loop costs)
  3. make strategic plans outlining how anticipatory adjustments are to be made and paid for in both short and long term
  4. make the adjustments!