10 things staff need to know about disability services

10 important things that staff should know about disability services and working with students with a disability:

The definition of disability is broad

It includes physical, psychological and mental health problems, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and temporary disability/illness.

Access Plans will assist you to support a student with a health condition or disability

An Access Plan is a document designed to assist Faculty staff to support a student with a health condition or disability and clarify arrangements that are needed to minimise educational disadvantage.

Find out more about Access Plans.

Students are not obliged to disclose their disability or health condition to the University.

Some students choose not to disclose their disability because they do not require adjustments. Some prefer to protect their privacy, or are concerned that disclosing disability may lead to discrimination.

If a student wants to apply for services and supports, they do have to provide the University with some information about their disability and its impacts. This can be done through the Disability Resource Centre.

As a staff member working with a student with disability, keep in mind that what you need to know is how disability affects their study and what adjustments are needed to accommodate this. The exact nature of a student's disability is generally not relevant.

Confidentiality and privacy are important to students

When a student applies for services with the DRC, they are advised that the information they have provided will be used by the University to determine and manage the provision of services to them.

They are told that it may be necessary to discuss the information with other University staff. This is consistent with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the University's Information Privacy policy.

All staff members have responsibilities towards students with disabilities

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) it is against the law for a university to directly or indirectly discriminate against a student because of their disability. Universities must not:

  • refuse someone admission or expel them because of disability
  • impose less favourable conditions on a student with a disability
  • limit access (eg to buildings or to course materials) because of disability

Universities must make changes to courses to reasonably accommodate the needs of a student with disability. These are called 'reasonable adjustments'.

The Act also makes it illegal to harass or victimise a person with disability.

You are expected to make reasonable adjustments

An adjustment is a measure or action taken to assist a student with a disability to participate in education and training on the same basis as other students.

The Disability Discrimination Act ( DDA ) through the Disability Standards for Education requires institutions to take reasonable steps to enable the student with a disability to participate in education on the same basis as a student without a disability. An adjustment is reasonable if it balances the interests of all parties affected. Find out more about reasonable adjustments in the Supporting students with disability section.

Students with a disability need to have a chance to participate in field work and practicums

The Disability Standards for Education require universities to implement measures to ensure that students with disability may participate in learning experiences on the same basis as students without disability - including off-campus activities such as field trips, practicums and work placements. The University has a responsibility to make these activities as inclusive as possible.

The Disability Resource Centre encourages students to think as early as possible about the impact of their disability or health condition in relation to field trips and work placements. We ask students to be proactive in discussing any possible issues with staff where adjustments might need to be made. Find out more about what you can do to help minimise the impact of disability for your students in the Supporting students with disability section.

Communication is the key to understand a student's needs

If you have a student with disability, it's important to communicate with him/her to understand their needs, the way they would prefer to be treated, the terminology they prefer people to use about their disability, etc. However, communication is not always an easy task and some students might be uncomfortable discussing their disability. See the Supporting students with disability section for more information and tips to communicate with students with disability.

There is disability-specific information available for you

Browse the ADCET website for information about specific disabilities, and teaching and assessment tips.

Keep in mind:

  • A student may have more than one area of disability, and the impacts on their study may be the result of a combination of impairments.
  • Students with the same impairment may experience different impacts and have quite different needs - this might depend on the extent of the impairment, the strategies the student has already developed, the student's educational experience and the nature and level of the course they are doing.
  • The best way to understand a particular student's needs is to talk with them.

Deakin University has a Disability Action Plan

Deakin University has a Disability Access Plan that outlines how Deakin provides access for students, staff and visitors with disability. You are welcome to refer to that plan if you want more information on the university's policies and plans.

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