Students with a Disability Policy

Document Number000344
Date Approved26 August 2000

Australian Universities operate in a context which requires that institutions subscribe to the philosophy of social justice and give explicit attention to the provision of educational opportunity for people with disabilities. The University of Newcastle aims to provide students who have disabilities with the opportunity to participate fully in University life.


This policy applies to any physical venue, whether on or outside a University campus, where a University activity is taking place. It also applies to agencies working on behalf of the University in Australia.


Disability – Defined by the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) in relation to a person means:



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; or


is imputed to a person.

Commonly used descriptions of disability such as physical, sensory, intellectual, psychiatric and learning are included in this definition.

Legislative Requirements

Tertiary education institutions are subject to the provisions of State and Commonwealth equal opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation. These legislative provisions make it unlawful for the University to discriminate against a person on the grounds of the person’s disability. This includes both direct discrimination (eg refusing to accept a person’s application for admission or enrolment as a student because of a disability) and indirect discrimination where a condition or requirement is imposed which may be the same for everyone but unreasonably and disproportionately excludes or disadvantages a person with a disability. In developing good practices in this area, the University needs to be aware of other legislative provisions on such matters as vicarious liability, privacy, information management, duty of care and workplace health and safety.

Rights and Responsibilities of Staff

All staff take responsibility to ensure equity for students with disabilities and discharge their duties in a non-discriminatory manner. Staff Rights Staff have a right to expect that students seeking reasonable adjustments to the learning program will discuss their specific requirements (with assistance if required) and share responsibility in negotiating solutions.

Staff Responsibilities

Staff are expected to undertake development activities which ensure they become familiar with the general requirements of students who have disabilities.
Staff shall create a climate that encourages students to approach them to discuss issues impacting on their studies that arise from their disability.
Staff respond to the particular requirements of students who have disabilities by making reasonable adjustments within a flexible curriculum.
Staff understand and constructively manage behaviour arising from disability which impacts upon others in the class.



In order to obtain support it is necessary that students disclose the nature of their disability to University disability support staff. The wish of a student to keep this information confidential from other staff will not prevent the student from receiving support.

Student Rights

Students have the right to expect that:



they will be treated with dignity and respect;



the University will establish an inclusive educational environment;



they can undertake their studies free from discrimination and harassment;



staff will anticipate their need for reasonable adjustment, invite them to discuss their requirements and treat the request promptly and seriously;



their views will be sought in the development and review of policies, procedures and practices affecting their lives at the University;



where required, they may be assisted by independent advocates;



staff will be given appropriate training to become familiar with good practices for meeting the requirements of the students;



they will be given the opportunity to develop skills which will enable them to obtain maximum benefit from available services; and



confidential information about their disability will not be disclosed without their permission, except in exceptional circumstances (eg when safety factors are involved).

Student Responsibilities

Students and where applicable prospective students with disabilities have a responsibility to provide information which assists the University in the timely planning and implementation of appropriate services by:



making early contact with disability support staff in the University;



notifying and verifying their requirements to the extent necessary to ensure an appropriate University response;



being proactive in advising the University of the difficulties they encounter in accessing aspects of the life of the University and how to overcome these difficulties; and



ensuring that specialised services provided are utilised in a fair and effective manner.

Selection, Admission and Enrolment

In the processes of student selection, the University will assess the academic competence of applicants, except where special entry and/or special consideration for students with disabilities are requested by the student and supporting evidence is provided.

Applications from students who meet standard admission criteria for a course will not be rejected on the basis of pre-judgements of their ability to cope with the demands of the course, or of their potential employability.

Service Provision

Provision of appropriate services to students with disabilities is the responsibility of all relevant organisational areas within the University. Particular advice and/or services may be provided by a unit or individual with specialist expertise.

Physical Access

The University aims to provide a physical environment in which students with disabilities can effectively undertake their studies. All new buildings and extensions will be designed with provision for access for students with disabilities. Extensions will be designed with appropriate provisions for access.

In the development of educational resources (libraries, computer laboratories, lecture theatres) the needs of students with visual, hearing, manipulative and mobility impairments will be taken into account.

Staff Development

In staff development programs, the University will promote:



awareness of the principles of equity of academic opportunity for people with disabilities;



basic disability awareness including appropriate language and attitudes in reference to people with disabilities;



general familiarity with the support services provided by the University for people with disabilities; and



knowledge of teaching and assessment strategies appropriate for students with disabilities.


The University will promote the use of appropriate language in reference to disabilities and people with disabilities. Every effort will be made to ensure that University publications are exemplary in this regard.


Students who believe they have been discriminated against may take action under the University’s Student Grievance Procedures.

Related Documents

Inclusive Language Guideline

Inclusive Language Policy

Implementation of Policy

Responsibility for implementation of the policy rests with the Vice-Chancellor.

Approved by the Vice-Chancellor 26 August 2000.

This document is based on and uses material drawn from Students with Disabilities: Code of Practice for Australian Tertiary Institutions, February 1998 and AVCC Guidelines relating to students with disabilities, December 1996.

Approval AuthorityVice-Chancellor
Date Approved26 August 2000
Policy SponsorDeputy Vice-Chancellor (Services)
Policy OwnerAcademic Registrar
Policy ContactDeputy Academic Registrar, Student Services
Amendment History

Updated FOI to GIPA provisions, 28 September 2010.