Providing quality training and assessment services to students with disabilities
Nearly one in five Australians has a disability. The definition of disability under legislation is quite broad. It includes physical and learning disabilities, chronic medical condition or mental illness. People with disabilities have a right to access and participate in education and training.
Registered training organisations are required to comply with the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 when providing services for students who may have a disability.
This fact sheet aims to help RTOs understand their obligations under the Standards and other relevant legislation.
Provider obligations under the Standards
The Standards for RTOs 2015 outline the responsibility of providers to adhere to the principles of access and equity:
‘Access and equity means policies and approaches aimed at ensuring that VET is responsive to the individual needs of clients whose age, gender, cultural or ethnic background, disability, sexuality, language skills, literacy or numeracy level, unemployment, imprisonment or remote location may present a barrier to access, participation and the achievement of suitable outcomes’ (Glossary, Standards for RTOs 2015)
Standards that are relevant to providing services to students with a disability include:
- Standard 1—the RTO’s training and assessment strategies and practices are responsive to industry and learner needs and meet the requirements of training packages and VET accredited courses.
- Standard 4—accurate and accessible information about an RTO, its services and performance is available to inform prospective and current learners and clients.
- Standard 5—each learner is properly informed and protected.
- Standard 8—the RTO cooperates with the VET Regulator and is legally compliant at all times.
Under the Standards for RTOs 2015, your RTO needs to determine the support needs of students and provide access to educational and support services as necessary, so that students can meet the requirements of the course they are enrolled in. Examples of educational and support services that can assist students with a disability meet course requirements include:
- study support and study skills programs
- language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) programs or referrals to these programs
- providing equipment, resources and/or programs to increase access for learners with disabilities and other learners in accordance with access and equity principles
- use of trained support staff including specialist teachers, note-takers and interpreters
- flexible scheduling and delivery of training and assessment, and
- the provision of learning materials in alternative formats.
Your RTO also needs to provide advice and information to students on:
- the suitability of the course
- any special physical or cultural requirements for the course
- reasonable adjustments that can be made
- support that is available
An RTO must also comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005.
Introduction to the Disability Discrimination Act
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of disability. Section 22 of the DDA contains specific requirements for educational authorities and providers. Discrimination in this sense refers to people with disability being treated less fairly than people without. The Act also covers people who may be treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability. All education providers, including RTOs, have responsibilities under the DDA.
- Access the full Act
- Read the useful Australian Human Rights Commission Guide to disability discrimination
The definition of disability under the Act is intentionally broad. It includes:
- physical disabilities,
- intellectual disabilities,
- psychiatric disabilities,
- sensory disabilities,
- neurological disabilities,
- learning disabilities
- physical disfigurement, and
- the presence in the body of disease-causing organisms.
Within each disability type there is significant variation. For example, many disabilities have a number of sub-types; there can be a wide range in the level of severity; some people will have been born with their disability and others will acquire it later in life. The DDA is designed to protect every person with disability. The DDA also covers disabilities that people had in the past, may have in the future, or are believed to have. The DDA also extends protection to people who have a personal connection with a person with disability, such as relatives, friends, carers or co-workers.
Responsibilities under the Disability Standards for Education 2005
The Disability Standards for Education (Education Standards) are a legislative instrument made under section 31 of the DDA. These standards outline the legal obligations of education providers and articulate how responsibilities under the DDA should be implemented within education settings.
RTOs have obligations under the Education Standards at all stages of the education process. This includes obligations in relation to enrolment, participation, curriculum development, accreditation and delivery, as well as student support services.
Examples of how providers can meet these obligations include:
- If you’re planning a new course or developing teaching materials, you must consider the potential needs of students with disability and ways you may be able to incorporate adjustments or alternative learning and assessment strategies.
- When a person is enrolling, or trying to enrol in a VET course, you must ensure the person can enrol on the same basis as other students. For example, they may need to access course information in alternative formats in order to make an informed decision about their studies.
- When a student is studying a course, they should have the same opportunities as other students to participate in the course and to use all relevant services and facilities, on the same basis as everyone else. This may mean making reasonable adjustments.
- Students with disability may not be expelled from a course because of their disability. If a student believes that the reason for expulsion is directly related to their disability they may have grounds for a complaint.
- The Education Standards also apply at course completion in that all students with disability who have met the course requirements must receive the same recognition as students without disability.
Meeting your responsibilities
There are many ways in which RTOs can meet their responsibilities to learners with disability.
- The Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) and the National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) Programme have developed a comprehensive resource for training providers: Building Confidence in Enrolling Learners with Disability
- The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) provides information and resources to support the work of disability practitioners in the postsecondary education and training sector. It includes information about the role of disability practitioners, universal design, inclusive teaching practices, legislation and standards, and reasonable adjustments.
- The Australian Human Rights Commission provides information about disability rights, the DDA, developing disability action plans, accessible web development and more.
- More information about the Disability Standards for education is available from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
- The NDCO Programme’s Your Right to an Education booklet (PDF, audio and Auslan formats) provides a plain English guide for educators and people with disability about the Disability Standards for Education.
This fact sheet has been developed in conjunction with the National Disability Coordination Officer Programme at Western Sydney University.