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Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training
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Policy & Administration

"When you want to understand an educational institution's attitude toward people with disabilities, it is often helpful to start at the top. When you look at the top you can discover the priorities and attitudes which flow throughout the institutional structure." Ira Socol 1

Policies designed to meet the needs of people with disability provide a framework for the provision of non-discriminatory services and consideration of their needs should be integrated into planning processes.  

An integral part of a university’s planning process should be policies designed to meet the needs of people with disability. These policies provide a framework for the provision of non-discriminatory services and the maintenance of quality standards for all students. They demonstrate the institution’s commitment to be held accountable for its actions and decisions. Many institutions have developed DDA Action Plans as part of their strategy for providing equitable and high-quality educational services.

Policies do not always facilitate the desired outcomes. The following issues should be considered in the development of effective policies.

  • Have people with disability been consulted regarding their needs?
  • Have other stakeholders been consulted?
  • Is the policy supported from the top?
  • Is someone responsible for monitoring it?
  • Are there effective procedures in place to implement the policy?
  • Have these been effectively communicated?

Many institutions have found it useful to form a representative committee which includes people with disability. Feedback from students and staff is an important part of the continuous review of the effectiveness of policies and service delivery. It is also important that stakeholders see the how their input has contributed to increased equity. Feedback and progress reports should be regularly provided to students and staff.

Services exclusively for people with disability should be the exception rather than the rule; most services for students with disability should be provided by the organisational unit responsible for similar services for other students. Inclusive approaches respond to a diversity of needs of all students not just those with disability, anticipating difference and giving all students the best possible opportunity to learn.  Inclusive approaches also save the institution time and money by minimising the need for one-on-one support and specialised services while ensuring compliance with disability related legislation. This inclusive approach is more effective than a separatist or specialised one.

References

1 Socol, I. (2008). Blocking Access from the Top. Accessed on 28 November 2014. Sourced from  http://speedchange.blogspot.com.au/2008/06/blocking-access-from-top.html