Students are not generally required to provide information about the functional implications of their disability (rather than the details of the disability itself) to facilitate the provision of support services and adjustments. Universities should provide frequent opportunities for students to discuss both the likely impact of disability on their studies and the appropriate adjustments required and protect the privacy of any information provided.
Students should be advised that delay in making their requirements known may result in services not being available on time. Depending on the situation, notification of the lecturer may be sufficient, but it may be necessary to notify the disability adviser or administration.
Encouraging Students to disclose their disability related needs
There are several ways for the university to engage with a student about his/her disability related needs and how to meet them.
Include a welcoming statement in recruitment and course material to people with disabilities inviting them to approach staff to discuss their disability related needs.
Include a "tear off slip" in the application form for the student to send direct to the Disability Service to advise them of their needs confidentially. Ensure that there is an accessible format
version for print disabled students.
Provide a reference to available disability support services and encourage students to discuss any additional needs that they may have with these services.
At selection interviews, discuss any learning or other support the student may need in order to complete the course or unit. If the needs are straightforward and you can implement them, do so.
Make clear the university's disability documentation requirements
. Remember that you do not necessarily need to know the nature of the disability, simply the impact the disability will have on the student's ability to study.
Discussing adjustments with the student
If you have a student with a disability in your class you may like to approach the student directly and ask them whether there is anything that you can do to ensure they are able to complete your course. You could also offer the assistance of the disability service.
Often staff are overly concerned about talking with students with disability, invading their privacy or using the wrong terminology. Read the section relating to non-discriminatory language or contact the disability service in your university for advice. Discuss with the student the way they would prefer to be treated.
Learn more about the implications of a particular disability or condition and appropriate teaching or support strategies. In discussing with the student any support needs it is the implications of the impairment or health condition for your course/unit that are important rather than the impairment itself.
Ensure that the core requirements of the course/program are reasonable and are clearly stated. This makes it easier to determine the reasonableness of any accommodations that may be required. 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. For guidance as to what is expected of you and the student, see the Rights and Responsibilities Fact Sheet.
Discuss any suggested adjustments with the student and if necessary with the disability liaison officer and others concerned. It may be prudent to keep notes of these discussions to minimise any possible misunderstandings later in the student's course.
Often a student's disabilities may not be obvious and so the recommended accommodations may appear not to be warranted. You can discuss the accommodation with the student to understand why it has been recommended or contact the disability service to negotiate a more suitable accommodation if this is required.
Always consult regularly with the student to see whether the adjustments are proving to be effective and whether there have been any changes in her/his condition that may require revision of the arrangements.
Adapted from a publication in the UniAbility series