Disabled people are under-represented in higher education and, although numbers are rising, their own awareness that they may have to overcome barriers to study may cause them anxiety at interview, or they may be reluctant to disclose hidden disabilities for fear of stigma or discrimination.
It is important that we support students with disabilities to access higher education, and consider what reasonable adjustments can be made to support them, and it is also important that we recruit responsibly to ensure that students with disabilities are able to complete the course with necessary and reasonable adjustments.
It is important that when an application is received, regardless of who is reviewing the application, the selector needs to be able to review all relevant documentation, including: the reference, personal statement, qualifications held and pending, as well as the education and work history.
It is good practice to look carefully at the reference and ensure it is being provided by an education professional, that it includes academic information about the applicant’s ability to manage their studies, as well as any details about their personal achievements.
The disability code is also visible to all selectors, but not the descriptor which may detail the impact of the disability. This is because the initial selection decision is made based on academic suitability for the programme.
UCAS Disability codes
A No disability
B You have a social/communication impairment such as Asperger’s syndrome/other autistic spectrum disorder
C You are blind or have a serious visual impairment uncorrected by glasses
D You are deaf or have a serious hearing impairment
E You have a long standing illness or health condition such as cancer, HIV, diabetes, chronic heart disease, or epilepsy
F You have a mental health condition, such as depression, schizophrenia or anxiety disorder
G You have a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or AD(H)D
H You have physical impairment or mobility issues, such as difficulty using your arms or using a wheelchair or crutches
I You have a disability, impairment or medical condition that is not listed above
J You have two or more impairments and/or disabling medical conditions
At every interview or audition, all candidates (whether or not they have made a disclosure of disability on their application) should be asked if there is anything they would like to tell the interviewers about the potential impact on study or practice placement of any long-term health condition, impairment, mental health support requirement and/or SpLD (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia).
For example; “Do you have any additional learning needs as the result of a health condition or disability that may impact on your ability to study, undertake any practical elements of the course or complete a placement?”
It is not discriminatory to ask this question if the same question is asked of all candidates. Some applicants won’t feel comfortable making a disclosure as they feel it could impact on their being offered a place. As part of the anticipatory duty to make reasonable adjustments, we offer students/applicants multiple opportunities to enable them to tell us about any support needs they may have. Edge Hill University positively encourages applicants and students to disclose any additional study requirements so we can make reasonable adjustments.
Where an applicant has an obvious disability (e.g. if they are wheelchair user), the interviewer can ask how they feel they will manage their studies and what reasonable adjustments may have been effective in the past. They will likely be expert in their own requirements and based on their educational background they may already have acquired strategies to enable them to manage the subject they have applied for.
What You Should Do
If a disability or support requirement is disclosed or identified, the responsible staff member from the Faculty should contact the Disability Support teams in Catalyst (the SpLD team or the Inclusion team). They can support academic colleagues and the student to identify what reasonable adjustments could be made to enable them to participate in their chosen course and meet the learning outcomes as well as meeting the requirements of any professional bodies. The expectation is that all students should be able to meet the professional standards of the course but there may be different ways they could do this.
If it is found that even with reasonable adjustments the student could not meet the professional standards/competencies, the original offer could be withdrawn and they could be signposted for advice about enrolling on a different course.
What Not To Do
- Don’t assume that someone with a disability will not be able to meet the professional standards of the course without exploring this with the Disability Support teams first (the SpLD team or the Inclusion team).
- Don’t ask only a selection of candidates who attend an interview whether they have a disability or medical condition that may impact on their course – ask every candidate the same question.