The Disability Standards for Education1 clarifies obligations under the DDA in relation to education and training. The effect of the Standards is to give students and prospective students with disability the right to education and training opportunities on the same basis as students without disability. This includes the right to comparable access to services and facilities and the right to participate in education and training unimpeded by discrimination, including stereotyped beliefs about the abilities and choices of students with disability. However, the measures may not cover all eventualities and compliance with them may not be sufficient to prevent discrimination.
The Standards cover:
- rights of students in relation to education and training
- responsibilities of education providers
- measures which if implemented will be evidence of compliance and provide a defence against litigation.
In addition each section of the Standards are accompanied by guidance notes which are intended to assist in interpreting them.
The DDA through the Disability Standards for Education requires providers to take reasonable steps to enable the student with disability to participate in education on the same basis as a student without disability, and specifically to ensure that:
- curriculum, teaching materials and assessment and certification requirements for the course or program are appropriate to the needs of the student and accessible to him or her
- course delivery modes and learning activities (including those not occurring in a classroom) take account of the learning capacities and needs of the student and are sufficiently flexible for the student to be able to participate
- where a course includes an activity in which the student cannot participate, an alternative activity is offered that provides an equivalent experience within the context of the overall aims of the course
- study materials are available in an appropriate format for the student and the student is not disadvantaged by the time taken for any conversion that is required
- teaching strategies are adjusted to meet the learning needs of the student and address any disadvantage in the student’s learning that results from his or her disability. This includes the provision of additional support or the development of disability-specific skills
- assessment procedures are adapted to enable the student to demonstrate the knowledge, skills or competencies being assessed.
Post-secondary education providers are also required to take reasonable steps to ensure that a student with disability is able to participate and use facilities and services on the same basis as a student without disability. 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.
2015 Review of the Disability Standards for Education
The Standards are required to be reviewed every five years in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department. Urbis were engaged by the department to undertake the 2015 Review of the Standards.
The Final Report on the 2015 Review and the Australian Government initial response are now available. The Australian Government initial response outlines how the Australian Government intends to address each recommendation.
Exemplars of Practice
In the 2015 Review of the Standards, stakeholders indicated that more awareness needs to be made on how to implement the Standards in practice. The development of the Exemplars of Practice resulted from a recommendation directly from the 2015 Review (recommendation 3).
The Exemplars were developed by Urbis, who undertook the 2015 Review, with selected stakeholders to demonstrate how the Standards can be used to support better learning outcomes and improved learning experiences for students in early learning, schools, vocational education and higher education.
1 Commonwealth of Australia (2006). Disability Standards for Education 2005 plus Guidance Notes. Accessed on 19 November 2014. Retrieved from http://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/disability_standards_for_education_2005_plus_guidance_notes.pdf