Diversity & Inclusion 3: Disability legislation

Diversity & Inclusion

‘Changes in legislation mean that meeting the needs of disabled students should now be a core activity of all further and higher education providers.’
(Access All Areas, vi)

In 1995,the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) made discrimination against disabled people (people with ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [their] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’) unlawful in three areas: employment, the provision of goods and services and the purchase or rent of property. In 2001, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) amended the DDA to include education. SENDA became Part 4 of the DDA, making unlawful discrimination against disabled people in education. Part 4 of the DDA is being implemented in 3 main stages. The main sections of the Act, making it illegal for educational institutions to treat disabled people less favourably than other people and requiring educational institutions to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to any arrangements that set disabled people at a substantial disadvantage, came into force on 1st September 2002. The duty of educational institutions to make adjustments involving auxiliary aids and services (e.g. sign language interpreters, note-takers, etc.) came into force on 1 September 2003. The duty to make adjustments to physical features of premises came into force on 1 September 2005 .

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) produced a useful Code of Practice to help post-16 educational institutions comply with the legislation. This Code of Practice does not have the force of law, but can be used as evidence in legal proceedings under the DDA. According to the DRC, ‘If bodies responsible for post-16 education or other related provision follow the guidance in the Code, it may help to avoid an adverse judgement by a court in any proceedings.’