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How does disability equality legislation apply to higher education institutions?

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Current disability legislation is generally categorised into two types:

  • that which gives individual staff, students and visitors to an institution the right not to be discriminated against or harassed, and therefore requiring institutions to develop policies to prevent such situations arising
  • more positively framed legislation that does not give new rights to individual disabled people, but places more proactive duties upon institutions and other public bodies, such as the duty to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people.

The first type of legislation is found in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (as revised). Part 2 protects disabled employees, and Part 4 protects disabled students.

The second category of legislation came into force in 2006 and is known as the Disability Equality Duty (DED), or ‘public sector’/ ‘positive’ duty on disability. This Duty requires institutions, along with other public sector organisations, to develop Disability Equality Schemes. These are accompanied by detailed action plans setting out what institutions intend to do to meet the DED. These schemes cover December 2006 to December 2009, and institutions will need to publish new schemes at the end of that period.

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