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Providers of education must not discriminate against disabled students, or disabled people applying to be students. Providers of education include providers of further education, higher education, adult and community education.
Providers of education must not discriminate against students or applicants in the following ways:
Providers of education must not discriminate against students or applicants by treating them less favourably than students who are not disabled, unless they can justify this treatment. This means that education providers must not:
For example, if a school refuses to take a child who suffers from epilepsy unless she stops having fits, this will count as discrimination.
In some cases, an education provider can treat a disabled student less favourably if it can justify this.
A school can justify less favourable treatment if it is because of a permitted form of selection. For example, a child with learning disabilities applies to a school that selects its intake on the basis of academic ability and the child fails the school's entrance exam. In these circumstances, the school would be able to justify not offering the child a place.
Providers of education must not discriminate against disabled students or applicants by failing to make reasonable adjustments to allow for their disability. If this places a disabled student at a substantial disadvantage compared with students who are not disabled, this will be regarded as discrimination. For example, a deaf pupil who lip-reads is at a disadvantage if teachers continue to speak while facing away to write on a whiteboard.
Making reasonable adjustments includes providing special aids such as equipment and sign language interpreters.
There are some circumstances in which an education provider may be able to justify not making an adjustment for a student's disability.
Schools do not have to make reasonable adjustments to buildings and the physical environment of the school. However, all local education authorities must have plans to make their schools more accessible to disabled pupils. Maintained schools, independent schools, and non-maintained special schools must produce their own accessibility plans. The plans must be in writing and publicly available.
Providers of further and higher education do have to make reasonable adjustments to their premises to allow better access for disabled students. However, issues such as cost can be taken into account when they decide whether an adjustment is reasonable.
For more information about the rights of disabled students at school or in post-16 education, see the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.