From education to employment

Education and Skills and Their Duty to Improve Inclusion

On the 5th of October, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) published a consultation document in which new regulations were introduced to bring up to date the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, ensuring that it meets EU directives on disability and discrimination for employment and vocational training.

This has been called “The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, (Amendment) (Further and Higher Education) Regulations [2006]”. These regulations will be laid before Parliament in the beginning of the New Year and it is expected to be implementedby the beginning of September 2006.

Changes in Regulations

Amongst the changes announced by the new Regulations to the Disability Discrimination Act 1 were; a new definition of the term harassment; clarifications of the circumstances for justification of unfavorable treatment; and the acknowledgement that a failure to comply with the existing duty imposed to make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons amounts to discrimination and that it is not possible to justify failure to make a reasonable adjustment.

Many of the regulations seem to be common sense, for the more open-minded persons. What this document seems to accomplish is to banish any loopholes that employers or educational institutes may utilize when discriminating against disabled persons. For instance, the document precludes the use of the excuse that their institute has no provisions for those with physical disabilities.

According to the new amendments, educational institutes will have to make physical alterations to their premises, in order to provide for the needs of a disabled person. This would mark a distinct change from current policy, where physically disabled persons are forced to locate themselves in institutes that have provisions for their requirements.

Problems Remain

One problem that has not been addressed in this at times incomprehensible consultation document is the continuous difficulties faced by disabled persons when trying to prove that an act of discrimination has taken place. Nowadays, where educational institutes are permitted to discriminate over the lack of one mark, it is increasingly hard to distinguish a positive discrimination over a negative one.

These fresh regulations will change the look of further and higher education, as it will provide more scope of disabled persons to participate in further and higher education. It is hoped that this will banish the impression that they are disadvantaged to other students who are not of the same disposition. As the report states, “Each responsible body must take such steps as it is reasonable for it to have to take to ensure that”¦in relation to its arrangements for enrolling persons on a course of further and higher education provided by it”¦disabled persons are not placed at a substantial advantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled”.

This, therefore, should see an increase in the number of enrollees into further, and higher education, as a whole; how successfully these measures are implemented, and whether instances of discrimination will be reduced as a consequence, is more difficult to determine.

Tina Sharma

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