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Disclosure. Most students with disability or health condition face the issue of whether to disclose. This includes what, when, and how to disclose your disability or health condition and to whom. Information about disclosure rights and responsibilities is crucial in helping you to consider the most appropriate option and timing. 

A web-based resource developed by the NDCO and Western Sydney University, "Choosing Your Path – Disclosure: It’s a Personal Decision” (link at the bottom of this page) is a great resource to help you navigate disclosure. This website provides substantial information about options and pathways that you can consider in relation to disclosing your disability in post-secondary education and employment environments.

Looking at the Options

Whether you are a prospective student or a current student you can have a confidential talk with a University Disability Adviser or TAFE Disability Adviser to:

  • discuss what support services are available and what documentation you may need to provide (if you are a prospective student)
  • discuss whether or not you are likely to need reasonable adjustments or support services
  • discuss whether or not you will need to disclose in order to have adjustments put in place
  • referral to other services that will aid your studies e.g. assistive technology, mentoring, workshops etc.

Disclosure to a Disability Adviser before you start your studies, or as early as possible, will allow the time necessary for the arrangement of appropriate support.

Generally, there is no obligation for you to disclose your disability to an education provider unless it is likely to pose an imminent risk to safety or affect your performance to meet the core requirements of the course.

Remember, where you haven't disclosed a disability, teaching and other staff are not responsible for providing education related adjustments or other accommodations.

Benefits and Disadvantages

There can be benefits and disadvantages for you about the decision to disclose or not to disclose a disability. In general, the decision to disclose a disability can open up opportunities for you to receive the support and education adjustments needed to allow you to study and complete your course to the best of your ability.

Of course, the potential down side of disclosing a disability is the possibility of encountering lowered expectations and other prejudicial attitudes. However, it is important to understand that it is unlawful for education providers, and others, to discriminate against a person because of disability, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Commonwealth).

Privacy laws also protect information about a person’s disability. Information about your disability cannot be shared with others within the institution without your consent, except in extreme circumstances. Adjustments and support are arranged without details of your disability being shared with lecturers, tutors or other students, and is treated with strictest confidentiality. For example, a reasonable adjustment of extra time is provided on an Access Plan but the Plan won't include the nature of the disability.

What does the DDA say about disclosure of disability?

The Disability Discrimination Act and the Disability Standards for Education do not contain any provisions directly on disclosure of disability.

The Guidance Notes issued in association with the Disability Standards for Education however do state:

Any confidential information provided to education providers for the purposes of making adjustments should not be disclosed except for the purposes of the adjustment or in accordance with a lawful requirement.

This advice in the Guidance notes is based on the point that it is only lawful to request disability related information from, or in relation to, a student in the first place for the purposes of identifying and making possible reasonable adjustments - or for the purposes of other lawful requirements including assessing a student's ability to satisfy course requirements.

Education providers should also refer to the Privacy Act which incorporates Information Privacy Principles including that personal information should only be used for the purposes for which it has been provided.

Most importantly, as in the broader community, attitudes in education settings about people with disability have progressed significantly in recent years. Educators and other staff are now more likely to recognise the rights of people with disability to participate in education and the potential for students with all forms of disability to achieve great things in education. Now is a better time than any other for you as a student with disability to consider disclosing your disability, and be provided the appropriate adjustments which will help you reach your full potential. 

 Examples of video material about disability disclosure at university and/or TAFE include

Further resources on Disclosure of Disability