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Disability Standards in education

A person with disability has a right to study at any educational institution in the same way as other students.

The Disability Standards for Education (Education Standards) aim to overcome discrimination based on stereotyped views about students with disability.

What are the Education Standards?

The Education Standards aim to ensure that students with disability enjoy the same right to access education and training opportunities, services and facilities as other students

They place a responsibility on education providers to make reasonable changes to accommodate the needs of a student with disability.

They also require education providers to put in place strategies to prevent and respond to harassment directed at students with disability.

The Education Standards were developed following extensive consultations with education, training and disability groups and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Who do the standards apply to?

The Education Standards apply to ‘education providers’ who provide education and training to people with disability, including:

  • the Commonwealth
  • a state
  • a territory
  • a public authority of the Commonwealth
  • a public authority of a state or territory
  • a private sector organisation.

Making changes to courses or classrooms

If a student with disability meets the essential requirements for a course, then educators are obliged to make changes – known as reasonable adjustments – to assist the student participate in the course on the same basis as other students.

To determine if a change is reasonable, an education provider should consider:

  • the nature of the student’s disability
  • the student’s preferred change
  • any changes that have been provided previously
  • any recommended or alternative changes.

This information might come from the student, a parent or associate of the student, independent experts, or a combination of these.

Types of adjustments

Adjustments will vary depending on the student’s disability, but could include:

  • modifying educational premises, for example providing ramps, modifying toilets and ensuring that classes are in rooms accessible to the student
  • modifying or providing equipment, for example, lowering lab benches, enlarging computer screens, providing specific computer software or an audio loop system
  • changing assessment procedures for example, allowing for alternative examination methods, such as oral exams, or allowing additional time for someone else to write an exam for the student
  • changing course delivery, for example providing study notes or research materials in different formats.

Are there any exceptions to the Education Standards?

Anti-discrimination laws and the Education Standards do not require education providers to make changes that would incur significant costs or disadvantage. This is called unjustifiable hardship.

It is up to the education provider to decide whether a change to accommodate a student with disability is reasonable.

They should consider all the likely costs and benefits – both direct and indirect – for the institution, the student, any associates of the student, the teachers, other students and the wider community.

These considerations can include:

  • costs of additional staffing, providing special resources or modifying the curriculum
  • costs resulting from the student’s participation in the learning environment, including any adverse impact on learning and social outcomes for the student, other students and teachers
  • benefits of the student’s participation in the learning environment, including positive learning and social outcomes for the student, other students and teachers
  • any financial incentives, such as subsidies or grants, that are available to the provider if the student participates.

Educational institutions are not required to make changes that would cause unjustifiable hardship.