Issues Related to Students’ disclosure of information on Disabilities or Impairments Staff Guidelines


Application

All staff of the University.

Purpose

These guidelines are intended to support staff with issues related to students’ disclosure of disability or impairment.

Confidentiality

The University takes confidentiality issues seriously.  However, with the consent of the student, relevant information about their disability or impairment and required support strategies can be discussed with appropriate staff members.  This can also reduce the need for students to continually explain their requirements.

Background

The University has made a commitment in its Strategic Plan 2013 – 2020 to ‘Identify students of ability whose personal circumstances limit their opportunity to access and succeed at University and assist them to overcome those barriers through a coordinated, research-informed suite of support programmes.’. It seeks to create an inclusive learning environment in which students feel safe to disclose disabilities or impairments.

The University’s Strategic Plan, 2013 – 2020, encourages proactive and imaginative responses to meeting the learning needs of all students, including students with impairments, for example:

Objective 4. A diverse student body of the highest possible academic potential

Objective 7. A high quality learning environment that maximises the opportunity for all our students to succeed and provides them with an inclusive, intellectually challenging and transformative educational experience

The Kia Ōrite / Achieving Equity Code of Practice for an Inclusive Tertiary Education Environment for Students with Impairments (Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 42) outlines a vision where:

‘Communication systems are effective in providing relevant and timely information to both staff and students, and a safe environment exists for students to disclose impairment information.’

Guidelines

The decision to disclose is a personal one, and may depend on the nature of the disability or impairment, the type of course or programme being undertaken, the kind of support that is needed and the perceived attitudes of staff and other students.

There is no legal requirement for students to disclose information about their disability or impairment at the time of application or enrolment.

However, in order to access disability support, such as special accommodations for studies, tests and examinations, students will need to disclose information about their disability or impairment to the relevant section/s of the University such as the appropriate faculty staff, Student Disability Services, University Health and Counselling, Examinations Office, Inclusive Learning, and Library and Learning Services.

Reasons for encouraging students’ disclosure

Because non-disclosure can create barriers to success for students, staff should encourage students to disclose their disabilities or impairments by providing opportunities for disclosure at regular intervals throughout a course. For example, invitation for disclosure could occur at the start of each semester, prior to information given about assignments, placements or practicum, field trips, tests and examinations.

Staff should encourage disclosure to ensure that students:

  • Are aware that the University aspires to create an inclusive teaching and learning environment for students.
  • Know how to access support services to maximise their potential for academic success.
  • Understand the need to discuss their support requirements e.g. note-taking, special conditions for tests and exams, access to teaching and learning spaces, as early as possible so that they can be arranged in a timely manner.
  • Understand that the University encourages disclosure and this will not result in being marginalised (particularly in the case of certain disabilities or impairments such as mental illnesses or specific learning disabilities).

Subject to consent from the student, Student Disability Services (and Inclusive Learning for students with learning disabilities) can liaise on their behalf with the relevant department(s) and/or staff members about appropriate support strategies. This can reduce the need for students to explain their requirements to multiple staff members.

When students can disclose

There are different stages where students can disclose. These might include:

Application stage

Students are given the opportunity to disclose a disability or impairment when applying for acceptance at the University. This information is collected for (1) statistical reporting of students with disabilities (in a form which ensures individuals cannot be identified) as required under NZ law or by statutory agencies, and (2) used within the University to enable staff to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities or impairments.

Disclosure is required to prove eligibility if students apply for admission on the basis of disability or impairment to limited-entry programmes or courses through an Undergraduate Targeted Admission Scheme (UTAS).

At the start of semester

Students should be encouraged to contact Student Disability Services before lectures start to ensure adequate time is available to identify and implement the support strategies required.

At any time the need for support is identified

The need for support may be identified by students or staff members at any stage of study, including after exams.

If a staff member suspects that a student may have a learning disability (such as dyslexia) or another impairment, it is recommended that they invite the student to meet to discuss this and, where appropriate, refer them to Student Disability Services.  Often this kind of condition has not previously been diagnosed and the student may not know themselves.

Awareness and teaching resources for staff can be found on the Student Disability Services’ website.

 

Definitions

Disability: many definitions of disability exist. The New Zealand Disability Strategy: 2016-2026 (Office for Disability Issues, 2016, p. 12) states that:

‘Disability is something that happens when people with impairments face barriers in society; it is society that disables us, not our impairments, this is the thing all disabled people have in common. It is something that happens when the world we live in has been designed by people who assume that everyone is the same. That is why a non-disabling society is core to the vision of this Strategy.’

The Kia Ōrite / Achieving Equity Code of Practice for an Inclusive Tertiary Education Environment for Students with Impairments (Ministry of Education, 2004, pp. 6-7) adopts a similar vision for a fully inclusive environment. The Code of Practice outlines how tertiary education providers should aim to identify and remove barriers in all areas of campus life, and refers to people or students with impairments. This includes people with permanent impairments, those with impairments resulting from long or short-term injury or illness, the Deaf community and people with other impairments such as a learning disability, neurological or cognitive difficulties, mental illness and other more hidden impairments.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) provides Equity Funding to support students with the following range of permanent (ongoing for six months or longer) or temporary disabilities or impairments, including (but not limited to):

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Deaf
  • Hearing impairment
  • Blind
  • Vision impairment
  • Specific learning disabilities (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia)
  • Medical
  • Head injury
  • Mental health
  • Physical/mobility
  • Speech impairment

Staff member refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part time basis.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

Document management and control

Owner: Pro Vice-Chancellor (Equity)

Content manager: Manager, Disability Services

Date approved: 24 July 2019

Review date: 24 July 2022