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Disability standards for education

The Disability Standards for Education (known as the Education Standards) came into effect in Australia in 2005. The Education Standards are very important because they help to make sure everyone understands that, under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) (DDA), students with disability have the right to study on the same basis as students without disability. On the same basis means that students with disability must have comparable opportunities and choices as students without disability. The Standards cover all areas of education, including admission or enrolment, participation in courses and access to facilities and services. All education providers have responsibilities under the Standards, from preschools right through to universities and registered training organisations.

The Education Standards explain that education providers have a responsibility to prevent harassment and victimisation of people with disability. They also have a responsibility to provide adjustments to help people with disability participate in education. Adjustments that are needed will depend on the impact of an individuals' disability and will be identified through a process of consultation between the person with disability and education provider. Some examples of adjustments include, but are not limited to:

  • access to alternative formats
  • access to inclusive technologies
  • extra time in exams
  • readers
  • note takers
  • practical assistants
  • alternative assessments
  • improvements to physical access
  • extensions
  • access to a hearing loop or sign interpreter

Education providers only have to provide adjustments that are "reasonable", and they do not have to provide adjustments if it would lead to "unjustifiable hardship" for the provider. If an education provider decides not to provide adjustments they have to be able to demonstrate unjustifiable hardship on a case by case basis. Factors that may contribute to unjustifiable hardship include risks to the person with disability or others, or the financial situation of a provider.

It is important to remember that the Education Standards do not require an education provider to relax the standards of a course or pass a student who does not deserve a pass. All students, regardless of disability, must be able to meet the essential ("inherent") requirements of their course.

For more information and a link to the full standards check out the Department of Education website. There is also information about the Standards in plain English, Auslan and audio available on the NDCO Programme Disability Standards for Education website.

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