In 2001, the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act (SENDA) modified and became Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). Under this legislation disabled people have equal opportunities to benefit from and contribute to the learning services available in higher education institutions. Part 4 covers applicants and potential students and it
An institution’s governing body is the 'responsible body' and legally liable for the actions of the institution as a whole, and also for the actions of individual employees and agents – this includes visiting lecturers. Individual members of staff may also be held responsible for aiding an unlawful act if they knowingly discriminate against a disabled student or applicant.
Part 4 applies to all the activities and facilities institutions provide for students, including
The DDA also covers people who have been, but are no longer, disabled. In some circumstances it also provides some protection for non-disabled people from harassment relating to disability.
Where a condition is relieved by medication this does not mean that the person is no longer classed as disabled. The disability should be considered as if there were no medication.
People with variable conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or sickle cell anaemia, are included under the definition of disability in the DDA. Their needs may change over time.
A student only has to declare a disability, there is no legal requirement for them to prove it. An HE institution that did not act on such a declaration would not be able to use as a defence the fact that no evidence was produced.
This act, passed in April 2005, places a duty on all public bodies to promote disability equality. It is incorporated as a new Part 5a from December 2006 and will substantially extend the DDA. Under this new legislation all public bodies, such as higher education institutions, are required to
The new legislation provides enforceable civil rights for disabled students and staff, and a tool for tackling institutional disability discrimination.
Part 5a of the DDA represents a new approach. It focuses on institutional change rather than adjustments for individuals. The extended DDA is likely to have a far-reaching impact on higher education institutions. The regulations associated with Part 5a impose a specific duty on key public bodies, such as higher education institutions, to produce a disability equality scheme (DES). HEIs will be required to
Part 5a also removes the need for mental health difficulties to be 'clinically well recognised', and makes important changes with regard to chronic conditions.
The Disability Rights Commission has published a code of practice for this legislation. Unlike the code of practice associated with Part 4 of the DDA, it provides statutory guidance on the legislation that must be taken into account.