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VIC Disability Discrimination by Tertiary Education Provider?

Discussion in 'Other/General Law Forum' started by hailey, 13 March 2015.

  1. hailey

    hailey Active Member

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    My sister has a disability which prevents her from performing a particular element of her degree, which is worth about a significant portion of her grade, and has been informed no concessions or alternate arrangements will be made for her. In order to pass she will have to get 100% on everything else, while able-bodied classmates have a 30% margin of error.

    She is in third year, and only now have they told her this, meaning if she fails this unit her entire degree including the money she has invested, will be wasted. Had they been open about this requirement, she would not have applied to the course. The college has always been aware of her disability and I would have thought had some sort of obligation to tell her at the beginning of her degree to tell her that it will be almost impossible for her to pass.

    Does she have any grounds to claim discrimination? I understand that the college is not obligated to "make changes to courses which would undermine the academic integrity of the course" but i'm wondering how subjective that is? As I understand it, the college has made concessions for a blind student in her class, so it seems reasonable to request concessions are made for her as well.
     
  2. hlly

    hlly Well-Known Member

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    The college is obliged to make reasonable concessions under anti-discrimination law. In order to determine what exactly the college is obliged to do, one would need to know the assessment task (with any relevant context, such as the kind of degree), the nature of the disability, and the concessions that are necessary or desired.
     
  3. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Hailey,

    If you haven't already done so, get a doctor's opinion/certificate clearly indicating that your sister's disability means she would not be able to sit the 30% assessment. This will have more weight to the school than a family member's claim.

    Further, is the school willing to have the remaining 70% assessment count for 100% of your sister's final grade? If so, this would help slightly (I understand it is not exactly the same as allowing your sister to sit an alternative assessment).

    Who has exactly made this decision? Are you able to appeal to the school board?

    If you have reached the peak of appeal within the school, perhaps try contacting the Victorian Department of Education.
     
  4. hailey

    hailey Active Member

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    Its a nutritional medicine course and assessment task is a medical percussion which requires two hands, which she does not have. I wouldn't expect a free pass, but perhaps some other task or additional theoretical work. I don't really know how relevant percussion really is to nutrition, she doesnt think very but we may be wrong.
     
  5. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hailey,

    Is your sister able to invite another person to accompany her to complete the assessment?

    Again, I refer to the rest of my comments above as possible solutions for your sister.
     
  6. hailey

    hailey Active Member

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    Sarah (sorry I didnt see your message when I wrote that) - the remaining 70% will count for her grade, but she would have to get 100% of that to pass. We are at the early stages yet, she has not been officially advised, only informally, but we want to understand what her rights are early on.
     
  7. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Hailey,

    Schools generally provide a concession for students with disabilities or illness. However, this is limited to what program it is and an approval process. These policies are generally made by the school, with private schools having slightly more leeway than public schools. The policies are then governed by the Department of Education.

    Therefore, if you have a problem with the school's policies and have exhausted the school's internal review procedure, then you can contact the Department of Education (or you can contact them directly for advice). If the Department is not not to help you and you really believe you have a case, then you can consider seeing a lawyer and exploring legal avenues. Obviously, you can start at the level avenue, but this may be unnecessarily expensive.

    As for your sister's current matter, I would suggest having a doctor examine her and provide her with a medical opinion that she cannot or will have difficulty doing the assessment. The school may not be willing to accept her disability for this particular assessment without it.
     
  8. hailey

    hailey Active Member

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    Thanks so much for the comprehensive reply Sarah. Very helpful.
     
  9. Ivy

    Ivy Well-Known Member

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    Hi Hailey,

    Sarah has given you a lot of suggestions so I only have one thing to add that may or may not be of use:
    Most Universities have standardised procedures in place for disabilities to make arrangements so that every student can complete their assessment. The arrangements are put in place on the basis of medical documentation (as Sarah suggested, your sister should seek medical documentation if she hasn't already).

    A very common assessment arrangement is to have a scribe write out a student's exam for them if they cannot write on medical grounds. I just looked up what Medical Percussion is and it seems as though someone may be able to do the tapping for your sister under your sister's instructions whilst your sister identifies what the sound is. That sort of situation wouldn't be vastly different to some very common alternate assessment arrangements that Universities put in place. Just a thought.
     
    Sarah J likes this.
  10. hailey

    hailey Active Member

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    Thanks ivy that's a great suggestion
     

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