Discussion Paper on the 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005
The Disability Standards for Education 2005 clarify and elaborate the legal obligations of education authorities and providers to students with disability, across all educational settings in Australia, from preschool to higher education.
As part of its submission to The 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) outlined a series of recommendations to enhance the impact of the Standards on the participation and success of students with disability in Australian higher education.
This discussion paper expands on the NCSEHE’s submission. It examines issues that the Standards were developed to address, including: institutional responses to disability; the identification of disability; curriculum development, accreditation and delivery; student support services; and harassment and victimisation.
The NCSEHE’s response reflects its core purpose and activities, which are focused on enhancing the participation, success and outcomes of equity students in Australian higher education. In doing so, it recognises the broader context in which universities operate and acknowledges higher education’s interdependence with other educational settings and the Australian community.
The Standards have had a positive impact to date in terms of enhancing outcomes for students with disability. It is critical that Australian higher education continues to engage with the Standards in new ways, to not only ensure they are appropriate and translatable into practice, but also to determine the best approaches to meeting them.
Based on its research and policy work, and consultation with equity stakeholders, the NCSEHE proposes the following 10 recommendations for strengthening the Standards:
Recommendation 1: That the position of Disability Education Commissioner be established through the Standards, to have responsibility for the implementation of the Standards and other disability policy initiatives, across all settings in Australian education.
Recommendation 2: That the Standards require the identification of disability be complemented with contextual information that allows for a more nuanced and meaningful understanding of student experience and need.
Recommendation 3: That the Standards impose a stronger requirement on institutions to adopt a universal design approach to disability, whereby the presence of students with disability is assumed, regardless of disclosure, with available data used to inform the development of inclusive policy and practice.
Recommendation 4: That the Standards encourage the consistent identification of disability in Australian education, both within and outside higher education and in view of the proposed development of a Unique Student Identifier for Australian education.
Recommendation 5: That the Standards require that outreach activities in secondary education be accessible to students with disability.
Recommendation 6: That the Standards articulate clearer guidance about formulation of statements of inherent requirements and their communication to students at the pre-access and enrolment stages in higher education.
Recommendation 7: That the Standards provide clearer guidance on the design and implementation of inherent requirements. That this is coupled with guidance on inclusive teaching practice and structures that will make the Standards integral to course and qualification design and operation.
Recommendation 8: That the Standards introduce a requirement for the consistent collection and reporting of data on harassment and victimisation in education.
Recommendation 9: That the Standards ensure the classification of mental health conditions under the term “disability” is sufficiently broad to include temporary, chronic and/or episodic conditions, and that institutional responses to student support service requirements or allegations of harassment and victimisation reflect this complexity.
Recommendation 10: That the Standards provide clearer guidance on the transition to employment, ensuring students with disability are provided with consistent and relevant guidance on employability skills and work options.