International students are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The DDA obliges institutions to make adjustments to its practices in order to reasonably accommodate the needs of international students with a disability.
- cannot refuse admission to international students on the grounds of disability if that student meets the entry criteria
- cannot charge an international student for support services
- cannot use government funding to provide support services
- must provide adequate support services for students upon their arrival.
The Migration Act is not subject to the DDA, and potential students with a disability legally can be excluded from entering the country on the basis of their disability. However, many international students with disability are granted visas and other international students experience injury or sickness after they have entered the country and started at university.
Attitudes towards disability vary greatly across cultures, and international students are likely to have very different experiences of living and studying with disability. Many won’t even realise that their impairment or health condition is legally regarded as a disability in Australia and that they are eligible for disability support at university. Staff working with international students needs to be aware of these and other cultural differences.