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

Introduction: Mary Brennan

Key legislation: Disability discrimination Act 1995 (as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001). New duties as from September 2002.

Part 4 of the DDA 1995, as amended, makes it unlawful for a responsible body or a school to discriminate against a disabled child:

  • in relation to admission,
  • in relation to education and associated services, or
  • by excluding a pupil.

In summary, discrimination against a disabled child can occur in two possible ways. Discrimination is either:

  • treating a disabled pupil or prospective pupils less favourably, for a reason relating to his or her disability than someone to whom that reason does not aply, without justification, or
  • failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that disabled pupils or prospective pupils are not placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with their non-disabled peers without justification. This is know as the reasonable adjustments duty.

The duty not to treat a disabled pupil less favourable and the duty to make reasonable adjustments are the two core duties that lie at the heart of the disability discrimination provisions in education.

Three key areas:

  • Physical environment
  • Curriculum
  • Communication

The duty on schools to make reasonable adjustments is anticipatory.

The reasonable adjustments duty is owed to disabled children in general, not simply to individual disabled children. This means that schools will need to review their policies, practices and procedures, as a matter of course, to ensure that tey do not discriminate against disabled children. t means that schools should not wait until a disabled child seeks admission to the school or is admitted as a pupil to consider what reasonable adjustments it might make generally to meet the needs of disabled pupils.