Skip navigation (access key S)
Get legal advice now: call 08001 225 6653

Get free confidential legal advice now

Call 08001 225 6653

Gurkha Free Legal Advice:

  • A free, confidential and impartial advices service paid for by legal aid
  • Mon - Fri 9am - 6:30pm
  • Calls from 4p/min - or get us to call you back

Find an adviser


18 Rights for Disabled People

pdf icon Download Rights for Disabled People (PDF File, 1.02Mb)

1. Introduction

2. When discrimination can happen

3. What the law says

4. What counts as a disability

5. When discrimination is allowed

6. Discrimination at work

7. Discrimination when buying and using goods and services

8. Discrimination by public authorities

9. Discrimination by private clubs and associations

10. Discrimination when buying or renting a property

11. Discrimination at school or college

The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people who are:

  • students;
  • applying to a school or college; or
  • potential applicants to a school or college.

It also applies to former students of some types of educational institution for people aged over 16.

This means that a school or college would be breaking discrimination laws if it, for example:

  • refused to accept applicants with a visual impairment;
  • refused access to a student with a visual impairment because they had an assistance dog; or
  • didn’t change a ‘no dogs rule’ to allow an assistance dog into the school or college buildings.

The Act applies to all schools, including nursery schools, and all aspects of school life, including:

  • school trips;
  • the way the classroom is organised;
  • school discipline and exclusions;
  • the way assessments and exams are arranged; and
  • the design of the curriculum.

The Act also applies to most other educational institutions for students over 16, such as universities and further education colleges. It applies to:

  • teaching;
  • careers services;
  • examinations and assessments; and
  • the design of the curriculum.

Some types of educational institutions are not covered by this part of the Act (such as some private colleges and vocational training providers), but may be covered by the rules on goods and services instead (see ‘Discrimination when buying and using goods and services').

Under the Act, schools and colleges need to make ‘anticipatory adjustments’. This means they should consider what adjustments may be needed for disabled people who join or apply in the future, and make these before they join or apply.

A ‘reasonable adjustment’ may be anything that helps to remove or reduce a substantial disadvantage. It may involve:

  • changing the standard procedures of the college;
  • adapting the curriculum or the materials or equipment used in teaching;
  • adapting the way teaching is delivered; or
  • training staff to work with disabled people and to provide the adjustments they need.

But adjustments are only expected to be ‘reasonable’. What is reasonable will depend on, for example:

  • how important the service is;
  • how much money or other resources the school or college has; and
  • how practical it would be to make the adjustment.

Other issues that schools and colleges need to consider when deciding what adjustments to make include:

  • how they may affect other people, including other students;
  • health and safety issues; and
  • the need to maintain academic standards.

There are some cases where the Act says ‘reasonable adjustments’ don’t need to be made. Schools do not have to:

  • provide ‘auxiliary aids and services’ (such as interpreters, lip-readers and note-takers) which would help someone in their studies; or
  • remove or change physical features (parts of the school buildings, for example).

However, these exceptions do not apply to colleges, universities and other educational institutions for people over 16, which must all comply with the Act.

For further information on this area, see the codes of practice available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (see ‘Further help’).

12. What you can do about discrimination

13. Going to an employment tribunal (ET)

14. Going to court

15. Going to a special educational needs and disability tribunal (Sendist)

16. The Human Rights Act

17. Further help

18. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Andrew Short, a barrister at Outer Temple Chambers and specialist in discrimination law.

Leaflet Version: August 2008