The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act (1992) and the subordinate legislation, the Disability Standards for Education (2005) provide a framework to ensure that students with disabilities are able to access and participate in the University’s courses and programs, and use the facilities provided by it, on the same basis as a student without a disability, and without experiencing discrimination.
Compliance with the legislation means that the University must provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ for students where necessary. However, in making a reasonable adjustment the University needs to ensure that the integrity of the course and assessment requirements and processes are maintained. In most cases, it is possible to make a reasonable adjustment without compromising academic standards and integrity, but understanding, identifying and documenting the inherent aspects or requirements of courses will help ensure staff confidence in these processes.
What is meant by ‘Inherent’
The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) states:
The inherent or essential requirements are those that students must pass in order to complete a course/unit/program. They are those components, which if removed or substituted would substantially impact on the learning outcomes.
The University of Western Sydney (UWS) Academic Senate Education Committee (2010) defines inherent requirements as:
The fundamental components of a course or unit, that are essential to demonstrate the capabilities, knowledge and skills to achieve the learning outcomes of the course or unit, whilst preserving the academic integrity of the university’s learning, assessment and accreditation processes.
UWS also note that making a requirement compulsory does not necessarily make it an inherent requirement.
Requirements imposed by external agencies (e.g. professional bodies, registration boards, external fieldwork agencies, etc) can only be considered as inherent requirements if they are also considered by the university as essential to the academic program itself.
Processes to support identification of what is inherent
In determining the requirements for a course/unit it is important to be clear about:
- the key learning objectives; and
- how students will demonstrate achievement of these learning objectives.
The following questions may assist in identifying which of the course requirements (e.g. participation in online tasks; particularly forms of assessment; attendance requirements etc) are inherent or essential:
- Would the learning outcomes be substantially changed if a particular requirement were removed or substituted?
- Is there any particular impact of the requirement on people with a disability?
- Have changing circumstances, practices or technology made a previous requirement redundant?
- Could the learning objective be achieved by an alternative requirement that would have a less discriminatory impact?
- What is the pedagogical purpose behind a particular requirement, how does it achieve that purpose, and are there other ways of achieving this?
- If a requirement involves a particular skill, is it the actual skill that is required or is it the application of knowledge to the task?
- Are there alternative ways that students could demonstrate that they meet the learning outcomes?
For further information visit the ADCET Course Design & Implementation - Inherent Requirements
Making Course Expectations and Support Arrangements Clear
In addition to assisting with the process of ensuring that academic integrity is maintained when determining what is a ‘reasonable adjustment’, being able to identify, articulate and communicate the inherent or course requirements will also help prospective and current students make informed decisions about the demands of a course or unit of study. Making course expectations and demands clear to students will also minimise disappointment, improve retention and success, and can help to avoid complaints of discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
Information provided to prospective and current students about the course or unit of study should therefore include:
- Details of entry requirements
- Any bridging or enabling courses
- Program structure and progression
- Essential course/unit requirements
- Any particular physical or computer use requirements
- Online, mixed, practical or fieldwork components
- Curriculum content
- Attendance requirements
- Delivery mode e.g. online, mixed
- Expected learning outcomes and assessment requirements
- Workload and time commitment
- Career opportunities
- Links to the websites of relevant registering/professional bodies e.g. AHPRA
The information should be communicated in realistic terms, whilst also being encouraging and welcoming.
It is important to include a statement indicating that the course can be adjusted to meet the needs of students with a disability provided academic standards are maintained.
Information on available support services should be provided, with a statement inviting students to make early contact to discuss their support needs.
Some of the above information has been adapted from the Creating Accessible Teaching and Support (CATS) site.