When offering advice about educational pathways and future employment, you are not required (or legally permitted) to act as a “gate keeper” to the workforce. It is unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) for a university to refuse to admit a person to a course on the basis that the person is unlikely or unable to gain work because of their disability. A qualification may lawfully be withheld if the person’s disability means that inherent requirements of the profession or trade cannot be met (DDA section 19), but educational authorities are not permitted to pre-empt this.
Because of your knowledge of the profession you may be aware of limitations of opportunities for students with disability. Remember that technology is constantly evolving and may enable these limitations to be overcome.
However, if you have concerns that a student is unlikely to get a job in a particular profession, it is useful to discuss this with them and provide information that can help them make an informed decision about their future. The disability service may also assist the student to meet their career goals, and may know of other students with disability working in their chosen field – there are many case studies (see below) illustrating the professional versatility and diversity of people with disability.
Staff should be aware that it is unlawful under the DDA to refuse to admit a person to a course on the basis that they are unlikely to be able to gain employment because of their disability.
Do not try to “counsel” a student away from their chosen career path: this may be seen as discriminatory. In the transition to employment, it is up to the student to negotiate appropriate work accommodations with the employer.
The key issue for you to determine is will the student be able to complete the core requirements of the course. It is important to ensure that course requirements and expectations are clearly documented as it may be necessary to consider reasonable adjustments to the program to enable the student to participate on an equitable basis. You should not lower academic standards of the course/unit in order to accommodate the needs of any student but you may need to be flexible in relation to the way in which the program is delivered or assessed.
If the student is unable to fulfil the core requirements of the course after reasonable accommodations have been made it may be reasonable in these circumstances to reject the student's application. Remember that it is not illegal to discriminate if this is done fairly but you must demonstrate that you have consulted with the student, considered all possible adjustments and sought expert assistance in coming to a decision.