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I have a disability which has recently been diagnosed and now need help from my university to complete my course. What can I do?

I have a disability which has recently been diagnosed and now need help from my university to complete my course. What can I do?

All universities, colleges and other educational institutions within the UK are subject to the Equality Act 2010, which lays out comprehensive provisions relating to discrimination.

Any university students with disabilities must make their university aware of their disability at their earliest possible opportunity. Once the university is aware of the student's disability, it is then obliged under the law to ensure that there are systems in place that will address and ameliorate any potential problems arising from that student's disability. According to the law, the university must provide what are known as "reasonable adjustments" for disabled students.

This obligation is to take any steps that are reasonable to avoid disabled students suffering from substantial disadvantage based on a lack of a specific service or aid. The Equality Act splits the reasonable adjustments ruling into the following three elements:

  • Physical features

This refers to such things as layout of the university building and consequent access to the various buildings and classrooms therein. Universities have an obligation to make sure that there is appropriate and effective access for all disabled students, and that they are not disadvantaged by the university's physical environment.

  • Provisions, criteria or practices

This relates to the actual provision of your university course, as well as other services and facilities. It also includes any and all of the university’s official procedures, policies and student activities.

  • Provision of auxiliary aids, etc

Universities must take steps to provide any necessary auxiliary aid or service. This includes making sure that all information is provided in accessible formats such as large print, Braille or email. It also includes the provision of particular items of equipment and even extra tutoring assistance.

What about when non-disabled students are subsequently diagnosed with a disability?

Generally speaking, it is important to let your university know in advance if you will need any adjustments to be made in order to make your course accessible and eliminate any disadvantage. This makes sense, of course, as the earlier they are aware, the sooner adjustments can be made.

However, sometimes students are diagnosed with a disability once their course has begun. In these cases, it is clearly not possible for the university to be informed ahead of time of the adjustments they might be required to make. Even in these cases, however, universities and colleges still have a duty to their students and therefore are required to make the same adjustments they would make if they were informed ahead of time. It simply isn't fair for a student to be discriminated against because of the timing of their diagnosis.

Regardless of timing, failing to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils is viewed under the law as discrimination. If you have been diagnosed with a disability since beginning your university course and you feel the university is not giving you the support you need to complete your course, you should speak to one of our specialist team of higher education solicitors today to discuss your case in confidence.


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