New disability standards - implications for education and training providers

Analysis

New disability standards - implications for education and training providers

On 18 August 2005, the Federal Disability Standards for Education 2005 became law. The Standards clarify how educational and training services are to be made accessible to students with disabilities. If you are a training/education provider then you should be aware of these changes.

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On 18 August 2005, the Federal Disability Standards for Education 2005 became law. The Standards clarify how educational and training services are to be made accessible to students with disabilities. If you are a training/education provider then you should be aware of these changes.

Key questions for education providers
  • Do your staff know how to treat students with disabilities?

  • Has your organisation made all ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate students with disabilities?

  • Are your enrolment, participation, curriculum and support services discrimination free?

  • Are you protecting students with disabilities from harassment and victimisation?

If you answered 'no' or 'not sure' to any of these questions, you need to read the information below.

What are the Standards?

Breach of the Standards by an education provider enables a student to make a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), and ultimately to the Federal Magistrates Court. If successful, such proceedings may result in orders that compensation be paid to the student. Demonstrating compliance with the Standards can provide a defence to such complaints.

Do the Standards apply to you?

The Standards apply to you if your business (or part of your business) provides education or training services within one of the following categories:

  • Universities, TAFEs and other tertiary institutions

  • Public and private schools (primary and high schools)

  • Preschools and kindergartens

  • State training authorities

  • Private business colleges

  • Commercial training businesses community-based (not for profit) training providers

  • Industry skill centres

  • Registered training organisations and group training providers

  • Adult and community education providers

  • Bodies developing and accrediting curricula, training packages or courses

Who is responsible?

You and your colleagues need to know about these Standards if you have responsibility for:

  • Legal compliance

  • EEO, equity and diversity

  • Human Resources

  • Admissions/ Enrolments

  • Training/Teaching policies and programs

  • Building services/Facilities management

  • Information Technology

  • Public and community relations

  • Curriculum development

What is the effect of the Standards?

The Standards require that students with disabilities are treated on the same basis as students without disabilities in relation to:

  • admission/enrolment eg. information about enrolment processes is made available in a range of formats, and procedures can be completed without undue difficulty;

  • participation in courses or programs and use of facilities eg. by providing substitute activities;

  • curriculum development, accreditation and delivery eg. conversion of materials into alternative formats;

  • accessibility of support services used by students in general eg. by providing specialist services such as occupational therapy; and

  • strategies to ensure the environment is free from harassment of students based on disability eg. by having policies and procedures and communicating them to staff and students.

In summary, the key obligations imposed on education and training providers are:

  • an obligation to consult with students with disabilities and take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure students with disabilities are given opportunities on the same basis as other students;

  • a set of criteria for determining when ‘reasonable adjustments’ must be made to accommodate students with disabilities, and when an adjustment does not need to be made because it would impose ‘unjustifiable hardship on the education provider’; and

  • a requirement to develop and implement strategies to prevent harassment and victimisation of students with disabilities.

What should you do?

You should ensure your organisation complies with the Standards, by:

  • conducting an audit of your policies, procedures, codes of conduct and other documentation concerning students;

  • developing and implementing a training program for your staff covering general awareness of their obligations and compliance with your policies;

  • ensuring you and your colleagues know how to effectively manage grievances and complaints of discrimination or harassment by students, including how to apply the Standards.

*Jane Seymour is a partner in the specialist workplace relations law firm, Australian Business Lawyers, and specialises in discrimination/EEO law. Jane is familiar with the education sector and the commercial and regulatory environment in which education providers operate. For further information contact: (02)9458 7695 or Jane.Seymour@ABLawyers.com.au
 
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