Equality Act 2010 duties
65 Providers should be aware of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students. The duty to make reasonable adjustments applies to any provision, criterion or practice other than a competence standard. The Equality Act 2010 defines a competence standard as “an academic, medical or other standard applied for the purpose of determining whether a person has a particular level of competence or ability”.
66 The Equality Act 2010 says that a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A person who has HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis is also automatically treated as disabled under the Equality Act 2010.
67 Providers must make reasonable adjustments for a student when they know, or could reasonably be expected to have known, that the student is disabled. Some examples of reasonable adjustments that providers might make to the learning environment and assessment methods include:
- Changes to the physical environment to improve access to facilities;
- Providing or allowing the student to use assistive tools or technology;
- Adjustments to teaching and learning, including providing information in a variety of formats;
- Adjustments to exams and practical assessments such as extra time, rest breaks, sitting the exam in a separate room, use of a computer to type answers or the use of a scribe;
- Extensions to coursework submission deadlines;
- Alternative methods of assessment.
We have published good practice guidance on supporting disabled students.
68 Reasonable adjustments should ensure that disabled students are able to learn and be assessed on a level playing field with their peers. Where a provider has made reasonable adjustments for a disabled student, it should not normally be necessary for the student to use the request for additional consideration process unless:
- They experienced a flare-up or deterioration in their condition meaning that the adjustments were no longer sufficient for their needs;
- There was a shortcoming or failure in the adjustments, or the adjustments were not implemented in time; or
- They experienced circumstances that were unrelated to their disability.
Reasonable adjustments to the additional consideration process
69 Providers should consider requests for additional consideration from disabled students in the usual way. But providers should ensure that the process is accessible for disabled students. Providers should be aware that reasonable adjustments may need to be made to the process itself, for example allowing an extension to make a request if the student experiences difficulties meeting deadlines due to their disability.
70 It is good practice for the additional consideration procedures and any accompanying guidance to signpost students to the provider’s disability support staff, as well as other support services. It is also good practice for additional consideration request forms to ask students whether they need reasonable adjustments to be made to the process itself.
CASE STUDY 9: Late submission and disability
A student has mental health difficulties and receives support from the provider’s disability support staff. The student submits a request for additional consideration on the grounds that they missed their exams because of ongoing mental health difficulties. They submit the request late. The student says that this is because they have difficulty meeting deadlines due to their disability, and this is supported by the disability support staff.
The provider considers whether its additional consideration process is placing the student at a disadvantage because of their disability, and whether it would be reasonable to adjust the procedure, for example by extending the deadline in order to remove that disadvantage.
71 It is good practice for providers to review disabled students’ support arrangements regularly. It is particularly important if the student has a chronic, fluctuating condition to see whether more or different adjustments are needed to support their learning when they are experiencing a flare-up. But the student should be able to make a request for additional consideration if they believe that their performance was affected because the support did not work for them. The provider should not normally ask the student to provide medical evidence each time they experience a flare-up. In many cases, a student experiencing a flare-up will not require medical intervention, even though their symptoms are debilitating.
CASE STUDY 10: Fluctuating conditions
A student has rheumatoid arthritis. They have regular flare-ups which are acutely painful, and which last for two or three days. During the flare-ups, they are unable to write or type.
The provider agrees that they can have extensions to their coursework deadlines when their ability to work is affected by a flare-up. It adjusts its usual additional consideration process so that they are not required to submit medical evidence of their condition each time they need an extension.
Disclosure of disability through submission of multiple requests for additional consideration
72 It is important that those who are involved in the additional consideration process look out for students whose circumstances may indicate an underlying and potentially undisclosed disability, even if the student has not referred to their health condition in those terms. Providers should ensure that those staff are given training to enable them to recognise when a student is (or might be) disclosing that they are disabled and should have access to advice about what to do in those circumstances.
73 If a student makes multiple requests for additional consideration relating to the same health condition over a period of time, that could indicate that the student might be disabled under the Equality Act 2010. Similarly, if a student makes an additional consideration request relating to HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis, the provider should be aware that they are likely to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010. Providers should therefore have a process in place to identify and support students in those cases. As well as looking at the request for additional consideration, this will usually mean referring the student to the provider’s disability support staff for assessment so that consideration can be given to reasonable adjustments.
CASE STUDY 11: Multiple requests for additional consideration and disclosure of disability
A student makes a request for additional consideration for their first-year exams due to depression and anxiety. They provide a letter from their GP to say that they have been experiencing symptoms for a couple of months, triggered by difficult circumstances at home. The provider accepts the request. The student makes another request during their second year, again relating to depression and anxiety, and provides a further letter from their GP saying that their symptoms have continued and deteriorated since their first year. The provider accepts the request.
Although the student has not formally disclosed that they are disabled or registered with the provider’s disability support staff, the provider is aware that the student’s depression and anxiety might amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 given the severity and duration. The provider refers the student to its disability support staff for assessment so that consideration can be given to reasonable adjustments to support their studies.