A range of federal and state legislation has implications for education and training organisations providing equitable treatment for people with disability. Of primary importance is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which imposes legal obligations not to discriminate against people with disability. The DDA uses a very broad definition of disability and defines discrimination in terms of less favourable treatment or consequences. It covers direct and indirect discrimination.
If a student meets the essential entry requirements, then educators must make "reasonable adjustments" to the course design or delivery to enable the student to have a fair chance of participating. Individual staff members can be held liable if it is found that they deliberately or inadvertently discriminated against a student.
Disability Standards for Education
The Disability Standards for Education clarify obligations under the DDA in relation to education and training. The Standards require organisations to take reasonable steps to enable students with disability to participate in education and use facilities and services on the same basis as a student without a disability. This may include making reasonable adjustments to teaching or assessment practices. The standards also require organisations to develop and implement strategies and programs to prevent harassment or victimisation of students with disability
An adjustment (or accommodation) is a measure or action taken to assist a student with a disability to participate in education and training on the same basis as other students. An adjustment is reasonable if it achieves this purpose while balancing the interests of all parties affected, (including staff and other students) without lowering academic standards.
Occupational Health and Safety
Participation of people with disability in practical classes does not increase the risk of accidents and in fact their safety record is better than average. However organisations are required by law to protect all staff, students and visitors from injuries and illness and there are a number of strategies for accommodating the needs of students with disabilities in laboratory or field-work. The fact that a student has a disability does not excuse the student from complying with reasonable application of reasonable rules.
Under the DDA, education and training providers are liable for the actions of employees and agents. If a staff member is found to have discriminated against or harrassed a person with a disability, the institution’s primary defence is that it took all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination occurring. Clear policies and effective staff training are key risk-minimisation strategies.
Grievance procedures should deal fairly with grievances arising directly or indirectly from a person's disability, and in a timely manner. However, just because a complainant has a disability, this is not necessarily what the complaint itself is about. Complaints should be viewed as valuable prompts to review policies, procedures and staff conduct.