On an institutional level, this process is facilitated by “reasonable adjustments” being recommended and implemented through a range of strategies; generally, though, academic adjustments required for individual students are recommended by Disability Advisors via an Education Inclusion Plan (EIP).
If a person with a disability needs an adjustment to be able to participate equally in university life, and that adjustment could reasonably have been provided but was not, then a finding of discrimination could follow.
What is reasonable?
An adjustment is considered ‘reasonable’ if it balances the interests of all parties affected.
Therefore, in assessing whether a particular adjustment is reasonable, consideration should be given to:
- the student’s disability and his/her views
- the effect of the adjustment on the student, including the effect on his/her ability to achieve learning outcomes, participate in courses or programs and achieve independence
- the effect of the proposed adjustment on anyone else affected, including the education provider, staff and other students
- the costs and benefits of making the adjustment
- This means that what constitutes ‘reasonable’ varies on a case by case basis and the balance is sometimes difficult to strike. However, it is clear that education providers are not required to lower academic standards or disregard the needs of staff or other students in order to accommodate the needs of any students.
Establishing and clearly stating the inherent or core requirements of a course will make it easier to determine the reasonableness of any recommended adjustment. It also helps protect the academic integrity of the course by clearly defining the skills, abilities and knowledge required. More information on determining essential or core course requirements is available here.
Additionally, implementing the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) will help meet the diverse learning needs of students, including students with disabilities, and reduce the need for the more ‘retroactive’ approach in providing reasonable adjustments on an individual student basis. For more information on UDL, see here.
Examples of academic adjustments that may be required
Recommendations for adjustments may include:
- modifications to the physical environment e.g. provision of a wheelchair accessible bench in a laboratory
- changes to assessment tasks e.g. provision of an alternative assessment; extended period of time to submit assessments; adjustments to examinations
- changes to lecture schedules or arrangements e.g. relocating classes to an accessible venue; locating professional experience placements within reasonable travelling distance of a student’s place of residence
- modifications to computer equipment in the Library e.g. provision of large monitors
- provision of information or course materials, including required texts, in alternative format e.g. e- format, MP3, Braille
- provision of specialised equipment or software e.g. text-to-speech (JAWS, Natural Reader) or speech-to-text programs (Dragon Naturally Speaking), Zoom text, ergonomic chair
- provision of specialised services e.g. Auslan interpreters, note-taking
- changes to teaching practices e.g. wearing an FM microphone to enable a student to hear lectures.
Some of the above information has been adapted from CATS-Making Reasonable Adjustments