When it comes to the transition to post-secondary education, students with disability have the same needs as other students: clear information about course requirements, their rights and responsibilities, and the learning and support options available to them.
In addition, they may require:
- Advice about the implications of their disability in a new learning environment
- Accessible-format information
- Orientation to events and activities
- Planning to accommodate their needs
- Information about specialised services
To facilitate this, university staff need to:
- Meet with prospective students early to discuss learning support needs
- Make students aware of information and resources
- Liaise with staff from the secondary sector regarding documentation and information about the disability, and previous accommodations
- Liaise with teaching and support staff to ensure there is co-ordination of services and shared understanding of the student's requirements
Discussing support needs
Students are not required to provide information about any disability or health condition (except when there are particular health and safety requirements). But institutions can provide opportunities for students to disclose, and encourage them to do so, to ensure that their support needs are met and they are not discriminated against. Once a student has disclosed a disability this information must be treated confidentiality.
Often staff are overly concerned about talking with students with disability, invading their privacy or using the wrong terminology. Read ADCET's section relating to non-discriminatory language or contact the disability service in your university for advice. Discuss with the student what is appropriate behaviour or terminology for them.
Here are some useful questions to ask.
- Are applicants (including for continuing education courses, part-time courses, professional development courses and research study) encouraged to disclose a disability?
- Are applicants encouraged to get in touch with a disability adviser or departmental contact to discuss their support needs?
- Are procedures in place to ensure such discussions do not hold up the admissions process?
- Are applicants through Clearing invited to disclose a disability and to discuss any support needs?
- Are appropriate confidentiality policies in place, and does staff know how to handle confidential information? (That is, what happens if someone says, for example, “I do not wish departmental staff to be able to identify me as a person with a disability”?)
- Is staff trained in communicating with people with disability, and aware of the requirements of the DDA and services available for students with disability?
Knowledge of students’ disabilities and confidentiality
Although, as abovementioned, students are not required to disclose a disability, institutions are expected to take reasonable steps to find out. Once it has been disclosed, or once an institution might reasonably be expected to know about it (for example, if it is visible), the institution has a responsibility not to discriminate.
Students do, of course, have a right to confidentiality, under both the Data Protection Act and the DDA. For some courses there may be particular health and safety requirements that students disclosure certain disabilities or conditions.
Consider the following.
- Are applicants encouraged to disclose a disability and any support needs, both when they apply and after they have been offered a place? (Some applicants may be wary of disclosing before an offer has been made)
- Does recruitment material provide an image of an institution where it is safe to disclose a disability?
- Are applicants informed of the institution’s confidentiality policy so that they can be sure information they disclose will not be misused?
- Is information about applicants’ disabilities recorded so that appropriate arrangements can be made either during the admissions process or subsequently?
- Are there procedures in place to ensure that information is kept confidential to relevant staff, or completely confidential if the student requests this?
- Are students informed about the courses where health and safety or other standards require the disclosure of certain conditions or disabilities?