Commencement of Study

Study and disclosure

Students with a disability maybe beginning to experience the impact their disability has on their capacity to undertake further study. This may lead to further consideration about disclosure of their disability at this time. At the commencement of studies, students have a number of opportunities to disclose their disability, if they choose to, such as disability support staff, teaching staff, counselling staff or other students. However, if students disclose after enrolment, they may not be eligible for any fee concessions. The student is advised to check with their training provider for any available concessions.

The disability support service

Disability Support Staff

Katie was concerned that she would not be able to keep up with her workload and still have time for the rest she needed to ensure her medical condition remained under her control. Katie chose to disclose her disability to the disability support staff to discuss her concerns and to develop a plan to identify appropriate education and personal adjustments and strategies.

Disability support service staff at the post school training provider may be a valuable resource for students, especially if the student needs to negotiate education related adjustments to enable them to commence and/or continue their course. Disclosure to disability support service staff at the commencement of study allows for the timely development, in consultation with the student, of an individual educational plan that identifies the need for any or all of the following components:

  • academic support workers (e.g. notetakers, personal readers, tutors, class room participation assistants, interpreters)
  • alternative examination & assignment arrangements (e.g. scribe, reader, additional time)
  • alternative format materials & equipment (e.g. large print, assisted hearing devices, voice activated software, furniture)
  • enrolment and campus orientation
  • physical access to facilities
  • referral to community support services
  • other services and support specific to the course requirements

For some students just advising the disability support service staff at the commencement of their studies provides reassurance. Some students with disabilities may not require any action to be taken at this time but if they require additional support in the future, they have alerted the disability support staff to their situation.

Disability support staff also act as advocates in implementing education related adjustments in the study environment on behalf of the student. This is particularly relevant for students who have a hidden disability and may require education related adjustments but would prefer not to disclose their disability to teaching staff.

It helps to contact the disability support service staff at your chosen institution as soon as possible. 

Teaching Staff

When Tom realised that he was struggling to take adequate notes and to keep up with the reading in his course, he decided to speak directly to the teacher of that particular subject.

Students do often approach teaching staff directly, knowing what support they need and wanting to explain their specific circumstances. This can be a very effective process if the student is "…knowledgeable about their disability and (is) able to articulate both their disability-related needs and their (skills).(1)" It is not usually necessary to provide a detailed account of the disability or medical condition, but what is most helpful is being able to provide a clear statement of how the disability impacts on the student's capacity to study and what specific supports or help may be needed.

Disclosure directly to a teacher can also alert teaching staff to the many different ways in which students with a disability approach learning and the various options available which may assist them.

Counselling Staff

Counselling staff can provide valuable support to students with a disability. They can provide assistance with developing and tailoring individual educational plans with students, provide referrals to other services for specific needs, assist students considering disclosing a disability to others and information about educational programs.

Disclosing to others

Jo decided to tell a couple of classmates about his disability, in the hope that they would have a good understanding of his situation, including the times that he could not be in class. Jo also requested support from these friends in keeping in touch when he was absent, so that he wouldn't feel too embarrassed to return to classes when he was well enough.

Sometimes students with disabilities choose to disclose to peers and/or teaching staff in order to educate them, to try to break down barriers or challenge stereotypes. They may be alerting others to some of the issues they face on a daily basis so that their situation is better understood.

Why students choose to disclose

Kristy has been attending her course for 2 weeks, but she is already beginning to feel very stressed, as she has been unable to attend all of her lectures or tutorials, due to difficulties with her medication. She has 3 assignments due in the next 2 months, but is fearful she won't be able to complete them. Kirsty has decided to disclose her disability to disability service staff to gain assistance with these problems.

Students may choose to disclose their disability at the commencement of study to:

  • discuss their specific needs with disability service staff to ensure appropriate assistance and services are provided.
  • to help prevent the student from "dropping out" or failing courses
  • to notify disability support services and/or teaching staff that they may require assistance in the future, such as during examinations etc.

Why students choose not to disclose

Anton began his course and although he has had to make many adjustments to his new study environment, he is feeling confident about his capacity to undertake study without disclosing his disability at this time.

Students may choose NOT to disclose a disability at the commencement of study, for any number of reasons, including:

  • a belief that assistance or supports related to their disability will not be required
  • uncertainty about who they should disclose to and what happens to their personal information
  • a fear of being discriminated against

What to disclose

At the commencement of a course, students may have identified several problems or areas of concern in relation to the impact of their disability on their capacity to study. A student may or may not at this time be aware of suitable accommodations or supports to assist them and may require assistance from others to be aware of the range of options available to them.

It is not essential or necessary for students to disclose specific personal information about their disability. The most important thing is for the student to identify with their teacher or disability support staff how their disability impacts on their capacity to undertake education, training and study.

To whom should students disclose

Students choose to whom they will disclose their disability based on a variety of issues. These include their preparedness to share information about their disability, their perceptions of other's attitudes to disability, their specific needs and their knowledge of available services. At the commencement of studies, students have a number of opportunities to disclose their disability, if they choose to, such as disability support staff, teaching staff, counselling staff or other students.

Students rights and responsibilities when disclosing at the commencement of study

Students have the right to:

  • seek information about disability support services at any time during their course.
  • appropriate education related adjustments and supports in relation to their disability, to enable them to successfully undertake their study.
  • disclose only to disability support staff to identify and implement appropriate education related adjustments without having to disclose a disability to all relevant teaching staff
  • have information about their disability treated confidentially and respectfully.

Students are responsible for:

  • advising staff in a timely manner of their needs in relation to their disability, including education related adjustments, support and information.
  • investigating and fully understanding the requirements of the course they are undertaking. If the student is planning to undertake a career which involves registration with a professional or authorising body, the student needs to be aware of the inherent requirements of registration.

Roles and responsibilities of staff at the commencement of study

Role:

  • to meet with the student to discuss identified issues and inform the student about available support structures
  • where appropriate develop and implement an education plan with the student, which may include agreements about how much information in relation to the disability can be disclosed to other staff and who will negotiate with staff around required education related adjustments.
  • for teaching staff to implement education related adjustments, as identified by disability support staff, without requesting the student to identify themselves by disclose their disability or specific disability information to them. Some students with a disability choose only to disclose their disability to disability support staff to identify and implement appropriate education related adjustments and choose not to disclose their disability to all relevant teaching staff

Responsibilities:

  • to assist students to access appropriate education related adjustments and supports
  • to advise students of available support services
  • to keep all information confidential, unless the student has provided written consent to have information disclosed
  • to be non intrusive and respectful of the student's right to privacy
  • for teaching staff to implement education related adjustments, as identified by disability support services, regardless of whether the student has or has not disclosed their disability to them.

Responsibilities of educational institutions

  • institutes by law should provide adjustments and supports that enable students with disabilities to participate in their course of study on equal terms with other students. An equitable learning environment is created by taking into consideration all aspects of the learning process: students, teaching staff, physical aspects of the environment, the curriculum, delivery strategies, assessment strategies and access to support services to enable the student with a disability to fulfil the academic requirements of the course.(2)
  • to ensure students with a disability receive non-discriminatory treatment.

The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) makes it unlawful for an educational authority to:

  • discriminate against a person on the grounds of a person's disability or
  • a disability of any of the person's associate

For information about the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 refer to the Disability Discrimination section of this website or refer to the Australian Human Rights Commission website at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights

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