Abstract: The context of anti-discrimination legislation is discussed by firstly looking at the historical background and practice in other countries. This section goes on to consider the impact of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) and other legislation on providers of education. Legal definitions of disability and discrimination are covered. Issues of identifying disabled students, provision of information and making reasonable adjustments are identified as important. Health and safety legislation is discussed in relation to disabled students.
In these sections the focus is on the legislation and regulatory framework in the UK. However, it is important to note that the UK has lagged behind countries, such as Australia, Canada and the USA in bringing in anti-discrimination disability legislation (Box 13).
Higher education institutions in Australia, Canada and the USA have disability policies underpinned by strong equal opportunities and human rights perspectives. A number of features can be highlighted in the disability statements of universities and colleges in these countries, which will become increasingly relevant to the UK as education becomes more fully covered by disability rights legislation:
For examples of disabilities policies in higher education in other countries see:
Legislation relating to disabled students access to Further and Higher Education in the UK has been in place since 1992, when the Further and Higher Education Act (1992) required all institutions to 'have regard' for students with learning disabilities. As a result of this legislation, institutions were required to produce a Disability Statement, to appoint or identify an Advisor with responsibility for assisting disabled students studying at the institution, to state what specific provision existed currently in the institution, and to explain the future plans for developments in this arena. Various organisations were also established over the next few years, including 'Skill: The National Forum for Students with Disabilities', 'Disforum' (a web-based information exchange for disability officers), and the 'TechDis' website (previously 'Disability in Higher Education').
The Disabled Students' Allowance scheme has also been put into place to enable full-time, and some part-time students to benefit from financial assistance towards the cost of specialised equipment, non-medical personal assistance and other provision. Some of these resources can naturally be used by disabled students to support them undertaking fieldwork.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) (1995) addressed issues of discrimination in employment and the provision of goods, facilities and services. It established that disabled people were entitled to equal treatment and adjustments to their working conditions to enable them to participate fully. Initially, education was exempt from this legislation, but this is no longer the case (see Background to the DDA). The QAA also already requires minimum standards to be observed in the provision of education (see The Quality Assurance Agency's Framework). Health and safety legislation also needs to be considered when planning field trips involving disabled students. The associated risk assessments may need particular attention.
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 113 8