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


Case Studies: With answers

Less Favourable Treatment

A primary school is planning a trip to the theatre. The school does not offer the trip to deaf pupils on the basis that they would not understand the play.

Is this less favourable treatment for a reason related to the deaf pupils' disability?

The reason for not offering the deaf pupils the opportunit to go on the trip is their inability to heaf and follow the play, which is directly related to their disability.

Is it justified?

The reason for not offering the trip was an assumption that the deaf pupils would not understand the play. This is unjustified and unlawful.

Less Favourable Treatment

A deaf pupil with autism goes to the front of the dinner queue. A teacher standing nearby tells him not to 'barge in'. The pupil becomes anxious but does not move. The teacher insists that the pupil must not 'jump the queue'. The pupil becomes more anxious and agitated and hits the teacher. The pupil is excluded temporarily from the school.

Is this less favourable treatment for a reason related to the pupil's disability?

The reason for the exclusion, hitting the teacher, may be related to the pupil's disability. Particular features of his autism are that he has difficulty in managing social situations, he has difficulty in understanding the purpose of the queue, he has difficulty in managing the escalating levels of anxiety. If the hitting is related to these features of his autism, then the less favourable treatment, the exclusion is related to his disability.

Is it justified?

It is justified in terms of the order and discipline in school. However reasonable steps could have been taken to prevent this incident happening in the first place; eg: training for staff on autism and deafness and training for social situations, development of strategies for communicating that he is upset or confused for the deaf autistic pupil. If these steps were taken, the school is likelly to be able to justify the exclusion.

Reasonable Adjustments

A secondary school with a number of deaf pupils fails to negotiate the special arrangements for deaf pupils who are taking public exams.

Is this unlawful discrimination?

Yes this is unlawful discrimination because this failure put deaf pupils at a substantial disadvantage

A secondary school takes pupils to an outdoor education centre each year. The school can benefit from a reduced rate if they book with the same centre for three years. The school checks with the centre before booking to ensure that if they were to take deaf pupils as part of a group, they would be able to access the activities and facilities of the centre.

Is this a reasonable step to avoid potential discrimination?


A large secondary school is opening a special unit for deaf pupils. They plan to include the pupils from the unit in mainstream lessons. One of the challenges is how to enable the deaf children from the unit to follow the timetable. They might otherwise be at a substantial disadvantage. The school has an established 'buddy system' as part of its anti-bullying policy. What reasonable steps can the school make?

Deaf awareness training for staff and pupils, extension of the buddy system to provide training for additional volunteer buddies to guide deaf pupils from class to calss. BSL classes for staff and pupils.

A small rural primary school has little experience of deaf pupils. The school is going to admit a five year-old deaf girl. What reasonable steps should the school take to avoid unlawful discrimination?

The School Head consults the deaf pupil's mother and a local deaf voluntary organisation; devises a series of short training events (eg: Deaf Awareness; BSL; equipment, etc).

The Interests of other pupils

An exchange trip is offered to pupils studying French in a secondary school. One of the pupils is partially deaf and requires lipspeaking services. Her school tries and cannot get lipspeakers to go with her to France. Should the school cancel the trip or go ahead without the partially deaf pupil? Is this lawful discrimination?

The school went ahead with the trip without the deaf pupil - this is lawful because the school considered that if the trip were cancelled, the other pupils would lose the opportunity of improving their French. The school did try to get lipspeakers.

Health and Safety

A physically disabled, deaf pupil is going to be admitted to a primary school next term. The school is concerned that the pupil's standing frame will present a health and safety risk to other pupils when stored in the classroom in between periods of use during the school day. The pupil's educational and physiotherapy programme requires regular movement and the use of the standing frame. Without the movement, the pupil would develop contractures. What steps should the school take?

The school seeks opinions and advice on two risks: the standing fram being left around and the pupil not being able to access the frame to stand. The local health and safety officer gives advice on ways which the frame cam be stored so that they present no risk to other pupils and staff. The school explains clearly the decision to the deaf pupil.

Provision of auxiliary aids or services

A deaf child attends her local primary school with the regular support of a teaching assistant and twice-weekly visits from a peripatetic teacher of the deaf. Although she is severely deaf, the child's spoken language and use of English is well established. She wears a radio aid in all lessons. These auxiliary aids are provided through the SEN framework. One teacher refuses to use the radio microphone - is this permitted?

No. This is unlawful under DDA duties.


A deaf sign language user enrols at an adult education centre. An equirer told him to wait for a Sign language Interpreter rather than registering immediately. Later on, he asked the enquirer where the sign language interpreter was. The course was now full and he was too late to enrol, Is this a case of unlawful discrimination?



David is taking exams at his further education college. He needs a BSL interpreter as he has difficulties reading and writing English. The college says he cannot have an interpreter but he can have extra time. Is this correct? Are examinations covered by DDA?

Exams are covered by the DDA. From September 2003, David's college will have a dity to provide David with an interpreter if this is a reasonable adjustment to make. The provision of extra time is an adjustment that does not involve auxiliary aids and services and the college has a duty to make such adjustments from September 2002. if the college has a policy, which means that deaf students can never have an interpreter, they policy could be challenged from September 2002, even if the college will not have to provide the interpreter. if the exam is set by an outside examining body, eg: A levels, the college will have to ask if it can make adjustments. If the qualifying body refuses, there is nothing that can be done at present, as qualifying bodies are not covered by the DDA.

Evening courses

Irene wants to take an evening course. she has aplied to her local community college and to a private college. Both have refused to provide her with a lipspeaker. Is this unlawful?

Evening courses are covered by the DDA. Local community colleges do not have to make reasonable adjustments, for example, provide lipspeakers, until September 2003. However, private education providers are service providers under the DDA. This means that the private college already has a duty to make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services, if Irene finds it impossible or unreasonably difficult to access the course.

Parents' Evening

Catherine is the parent of a hearing child, but she is deaf. She asks the schools to provide a BSL interpreter at parents' evenings, but the school refuses. Is the school acting lawfully?

Catherine is not a pupil or student so she is not covered by the education provisions of the DDA. The school does, however, have duties towards her in its role as a service provider. Service providers' duties to provide aids and services, including BSL interpreters, came into force in October 1999.

Work Placement

Barry is a profoundly deaf S4 pupil at a secondary school. During this school year, he has to do a work placement. The school finds him a placement but, when he starts, the people at work make fun of him and do not make any effort to communicate properl with him. He complains to his school. Does the school have the duty not to discriminate against Barry? What about the 'work placement' organisation?

The school has a duty not to discriminate against Barry when arranging his work placement. The organisation where he does his placement has no DDA duties towards him, however, as he is not an employee, a customer or a student there. Niether the organisation not the school has a duty under the DDA in relation to the treatment Barry has already received. However, the school is responsible for preventing discrimination from continuing or recurring. The school should discuss the matter with the organisation and if the discrimination continues, it should consider placing Barry elsewhere and severing its links with the organisation.