Under the Equality Act (2010) it is illegal to discriminate against disabled people.

This includes further and higher educational institutions and sixth form colleges. The provisions on rights for disabled people in education extend to England, Wales and Scotland.

The duties of educational institutions

Educational institutions have a duty to ensure that disabled students are not disadvantaged because of their disability and must therefore make appropriate 'reasonable adjustments' to meet the access requirements of each disabled student. They also have an 'anticipatory' duty, which means that they must take proactive steps to anticipate the access requirements of potential disabled students. Examples of 'reasonable adjustments' might include:

  • delivering courses and materials in alternative formats
  • providing support workers
  • ensuring the environment is accessible

All colleges, universities and learning providers in England and Wales must publish equality objectives which set out their policies with regard to disabled people. All institutions should have a department dedicated to providing support for disabled students. Staff in these departments should be able to give you advice about the Disabled Students Allowance and other support that is available at the institution. For example, some institutions provide a 'buddy' system so that new students have a named person to help them during the induction phase of the course. Some academic departments also have a named member of staff who has specific responsibility for looking after disabled students. You should ask about this when you make an application to a college of university.

If the educational provider is a public body they are required to follow the rules under the Public Sector Equality Duty. This means that they must actively promote equality.

The Equality Act does not extend to Northern Ireland. However, in Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) still applies and the education protection under the DDA still stands.