How should students be encouraged to tell us about a disability?
- Place clear information on your website welcoming applications from disabled students. Consider adding profiles of disabled students to your alumni pages.
- Provide re-assurance that any information will be treated confidentially and as sensitive personal data.
- Widely promote the contact details of the Disability Lead and Co-ordinator.
- Clarify the breadth of conditions the term disability encompasses. Many students do not realise they are eligible to receive disability-related services. The Disability Advisory Service uses the phrase: This includes, for example, students with sensory or mobility impairments, long-term health conditions, specific learning difficulties, autistic spectrum conditions or mental health difficulties.
- Ensure pre-entry documentation includes ample opportunities to declare – do not rely on application form information alone.
- Use communication about examination adjustments to invite contact if there are any concerns about disability.
- Clearly explain how to disclose a disability. Students should either: update their student record in Student Self Service; contact the disability lead or co-ordinator in their college or department; contact the Disability Advisory Service or speak to an academic member of staff.
Why must we repeatedly ask students about disability?
Students can be nervous about declaring a disability. Repeated requests might encourage them to come forward. Well publicised opportunities to disclose will provide evidence of meeting the anticipatory duty to support students with disabilities required by the Equality Act, and it will pre-empt any claims of failure to provide support if such channels are not used by the student. There is no need to include such opportunities in every single communication. Once reasonable direct opportunities have been provided and high profile general information is available, responsibility to disclose can reasonably be expected from the student.
Why do students choose not to disclose?
There are many reasons but those commonly reported are:
- Concerns that disclosure will have a negative impact on an application
- Concerns about staff attitudes and responses to disability
- Concerns about confidentiality
- Previous experience of discrimination
- Lack of awareness that their condition would fall under the heading of disability – this often applies in cases of hidden disabilities such as long term health conditions, mental health conditions, or specific learning difficulties. International students in particular have different understandings of what might constitute a disability.