Disability Discrimination and the
What is the
Equality Act 2010 and why do I need to know about it?
The Equality Act 2010 places
a legal obligation on higher education
institutions making it unlawful to discriminate against
students with a protected
characteristic including disability. This Act brings
together different equality laws including the Special
Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001(SENDA) and the Disability
Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA).
Governing Bodies of Institutions
could be held legally liable for any failures to abide by the Act.
Individuals could also face litigation.
The Act places an anticipatory duty on the University which means
that it is not good enough to wait until a disabled person applies to
a course or tries to use a service before thinking about what
reasonable adjustments should be made.
What University provision does this include?
- teaching including classes, lectures, seminars, practical sessions
- examinations and assessments
- arranging study abroad, work placements or fieldtrips
- research degrees and research facilities
- learning equipment and materials such as class handouts, laboratory
equipment, computer facilities, classrooms, lecture theatres, labs
- libraries, learning centres and their resources
- careers advice, training and careers libraries
- leisure, recreation, entertainment, catering and sports facilities
- health, counselling, chaplaincy, welfare services, residential
accommodation and accommodation finding services
The above list is not exhaustive.
The majority of complaints received by the
University regarding disability discrimination have been in the area
of Learning and Teaching. Complaints related to discrimination in delivery of programmes,
failure to make handouts and OHPs available in accessible formats,
access to field trips and other practical activities and means of
assessment. This includes a case upheld by
the OIA relating to determining what is reasonable in making
adjustments to the formal examination process.
Definition of disability
A disabled person is defined in the Equality Act
2010 (The Act) as someone with a physical or mental impairment which
has a substantial and long-term
adverse impact on their ability to carry out normal
The Guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission confirms
‘Conditions that affect the body such as arthritis, hearing or
sight impairment (unless this is correctable by glasses or contact
lenses), diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, conditions such as HIV
infection, cancer and multiple sclerosis, as well as loss of limbs
or the use of limbs are covered.
HIV infection, cancer and multiple sclerosis are covered from
the point of diagnosis.
Severe disfigurement (such as scarring) is covered even if it
has no physical impact on the person with the disfigurement,
provided the long-term requirement is met ....
People who are registered as blind or partially sighted, or who
are certified as being blind or partially sighted by a consultant
ophthalmologist, are automatically treated as disabled under the
Mental impairment includes conditions such as dyslexia and
autism as well as learning disabilities such as Down’s syndrome and
mental health conditions such as depression and schizophrenia.‘
What is discrimination?
Discrimination is not only treating someone less favourably than
someone else for a reason related to his/her disability without
justification but also failing to make a reasonable adjustment.
The University’s approach
The University supports the social model of disability and is
committed to equal opportunities. It recognises its
responsibilities under the legislation and is committed to working in
the best interests of people with a disability. The social model
of disability focuses on the extent to which the environment, its
services and facilities, are ‘enabling’ or ‘disabling’. This
University aims to generate a more ‘enabling’ environment and to
create a non-discriminatory culture, for the benefit of all University
students, staff and visitors.
STAFF have a responsibility to:
- ensure that you do not treat a disabled person less favourably than
someone else for a reason relating to the person’s disability
- not indirectly discriminate against a student with a disability by
failing to make a ‘reasonable adjustment’ when a disabled student is
placed, or is likely to be placed, at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ in
comparison with a person who is not disabled (Student
Support can give advice on determining what is reasonable)
- if a student discloses a disability to you, request their
permission to forward this information to relevant colleagues
- if you teach, you need to give
consideration to delivery methods, materials available in
alternative formats and provision of course materials in advance. For
accessible education check our pages or
STUDENTS have a responsibility to
- disclose your
disability to a member of the Disability Team in
Student Support so appropriate adjustments may be
discussed (if it is a students choice not to
disclose but it is likely to be harder to make reasonable
- apply to their funding body for assistance with costs
related to their disability
- contact the Disability Team if you require individual advice at
other times and to notify changes in
- provide evidence of a disability or medical
condition to the Disability Team, ideally prior
to the start of the course if this is
possible or when you wish adjustments to be considered
- if you are using Student Support workers,
information of your requirements prior to
the beginning of each term
- attend pre-arranged appointments and tutorials or contact the
Disability Team to cancel or rearrange if appropriate
What happens if a student feels that ‘reasonable adjustment’ has
not been made?
Students with a disability who believe they have been subject to
discrimination and who want to raise a complaint with the University
should be advised to use the University’s
However, they could decide to bring civil proceedings through a court.
If successful, the student could be awarded compensation for any
financial loss or injury to feelings.
University Action Plan
The University has an
Equality Policy and Strategy to outline action to eliminate
discrimination and promote disability equality.