Step 1: is the student being provided with a reasonable adjustment to access education because of disability, consistent with definitions and obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (the DDA) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005? ESSENTIAL
A key step in identifying whether a student at your school is eligible to be included in the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability is determining whether they are being provided with a reasonable adjustment to access education because of disability, consistent with definitions and obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (the DDA) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards).
For the student to be included in the national data collection on students with disability, the school should have evidence that ongoing, long-term adjustment/s have been provided for a minimum period of 10 weeks of school education (excluding school holiday periods), in the 12 months preceding the national data collection.
Under the DDA and the Standards, all Australian schools have obligations to ensure that students with disability are able to access and participate in education on the same basis as students without disability. This includes providing reasonable adjustments where needed, in consultation with the student and/or their parents and carers.
Adjustments assist the student to participate on the same basis as students without disability in the school's learning programs or courses and to use or access the school's facilities and services.
Providing reasonable adjustments
In providing an adjustment, schools generally assess the functional impact of the student's disability in relation to education. This includes the impact on communication, mobility, curriculum access, personal care and social participation. Other areas that might be considered for some students are safety, motor development, emotional wellbeing, sensory needs and transitions.
Reasonable adjustments reflect the assessed individual needs of the student. Adjustments can be made in both the classroom and whole-school settings as well as at an individual student level.
Quality teaching practice is responsive to the individual needs of all students. Some students with disability may not need educational adjustments beyond those that are reasonably expected as part of quality teaching or school practices to address disability related needs.
Reasonable adjustments can be made across any or all of the following
- teaching and learning
- extra-curricular activities
- environment and infrastructure
Reasonable adjustments may involve a combination of
- addressing physical barriers, including modifications, to ensure access to buildings, facilities and services
- modifying programs and adapting curriculum delivery and assessment strategies
- providing ongoing consultancy support or professional learning and training for staff
- specialised technology or computer software or equipment
- provision of study notes or research materials in different formats
- services such as sign language interpreters, visiting school teams or specialist support staff
- additional personnel such as tutors or aides for personal care or mobility assistance
Professional learning about the DDA and the Standards will support teachers and school staff in making reasonable adjustments.
What is a disability as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992?
The DDA defines disability broadly as:
- total or partial loss of the person's bodily or mental functions; or
- total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
- the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or
- the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or
- the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person's body; or
- a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
- a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour;
and includes a disability that:
- presently exists; or
- previously existed but no longer exists; or
- may exist in the future (including because of a genetic predisposition to that disability); or
- is imputed to a person.
To avoid doubt, a disability that is otherwise covered by this definition includes behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of the disability.
Determining imputed disability
- An ‘imputed’ disability is something that someone believes another person has.
- To impute a disability the school team must have reasonable grounds to make such a judgement. At a minimum the student’s parent/carer must have been consulted about concerns the school has and involved in identifying reasonable adjustments to address the identified concerns.
- An Individual Education Plan or Behaviour Management Plan does not equate to a child having a disability, but may be an indicator of an imputed disability when it documents the teaching and learning adjustments that have been made so that the child can access the curriculum.
- Social disadvantage and/or disrupted parenting can be addressed through evidence based quality teaching and in and of itself does not constitute a disability under the DDA.
- A good test of your own confidence in the judgement is to ask “If we were challenged to explain our decision would we feel we had reasonable grounds and documentation to support our judgement?”
The definition of disability in the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability
The model for the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability is based on the existing obligations of all Australian schools under the DDA and the Standards and draws on the definition of disability in the DDA.
The DDA uses a broad definition of disability in order to provide protection against discrimination for a wide range of people. In addition to an individual with disability, the DDA covers other people, including associates of a person with a disability, people who do not have a disability but who may face disability discrimination in the future, people who are not in fact impaired in functioning but treated as impaired, and people with conditions such as obesity, mild allergies or physical sensitivities, and those who wear glasses.
The Standards clarify the obligations of schools under the DDA to provide reasonable adjustments for students with disability where required so that they can access and participate in education on an equitable basis to their peers.
Students should be included in the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability where:
- the student’s impairment meets the DDA’s broad definition of disability and
- the functional impact of the student’s disability results in the school actively addressing or supporting the student’s specific individual education needs arising from their disability within quality differentiated teaching practice and/or monitoring the student, or providing a ‘supplementary’ or higher level of adjustment or support Step 2: What is the level of adjustment?.
The data collection is not intended to count every student who is protected from discrimination under the DDA, including students who have a health or other condition where their condition does not impact on their ability to participate in schooling on the same basis as their peers.
Where the student’s condition does not have a functional impact on their schooling or require monitoring for individual adjustments, the student is not included in the national data collection on students with disability. For example, a student who wears glasses to correct mild vision impairment and needs no further educational assessment, monitoring or support in relation to their eyesight, is not included in the data collection.
The definition of disability under the DDA and obligations under the Standards includes those students with disability who are supported by general resources available within the school as well as students who are receiving targeted specialist education services and supports.
Students with disability as defined under the DDA and the Standards are in mainstream or regular schools as well as special schools and specialist support classes and include:
- students who have formally diagnosed disability by a health or allied health practitioner
- students who may not have a formal disability diagnosis but have impairment that requires an adjustment or can be supported through quality differentiated teaching
- students with intellectual, physical, sensory and social/emotional disability as well as students with difficulties in learning or behaviour due to disability
- students who are gifted and talented and who are impacted by disability.
Students with a disability confirmation or verification who are receiving targeted, specialist supports are only a subset of those students who may be included in the national data collection on students with disability. For this reason it is important for schools to have processes in place to identify whether the student who is receiving an adjustment meets the DDA definition of disability and the school’s obligations under the Standards. Professional learning about the DDA and the Standards and ongoing discussion in the school will support teachers in identifying and responding to students with disability.
A student is counted in the data collection when there is evidence of the school consulting with the student and/or their parents and carers to determine the reasonable adjustments that the student is being provided with.
The Standards state that, before the school makes an adjustment for a student, the provider must consult the student and/or an associate of the student in order to determine the type of adjustments required.
Under the Standards, an associate of the student includes another person who is living with the student on a genuine domestic basis, a relative or a carer. For most students, this means their parents and carers.
For some students, it may be more appropriate to consult only with the students themselves or with another associate, depending on their individual circumstances.
The case studies on this website work through the 4 steps of the national data collection process: Case studies matrix