Just the Job: Legal Landmark for Disabled Students' Rights

Article excerpt

Byline: Fergal Dowling

Tomorrow is a landmark day in legal history for the disabled as students receive the same level of legal protection from discrimination by their institutions as employees currently enjoy from their employers.

In less than 24 hours' time, students with disabilities will be able to take legal action against educational bodies which fail, unjustifiably, to take account of their needs. Although the introduction of such legislation is a fair and welcome step on the part of the government, it has left many administrators of schools, colleges and universities in a state of perplexity.

The reason for this is that the law I am referring to - the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act 2001, which amends the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 - has a number of levels of implementation. It also has numerous financial implications.

Add to this the fact that boards of governors are just starting to realise that they will be held personally liable if the body they represent falls foul of the new disability discrimination laws, and there emerges a potent cocktail for confusion which should not be swallowed quickly!

To help avoid the headache that groundbreaking legislation such as this can incite, I have highlighted below some of the key dates that the new act covers (with regard to post-16 education), as well as some suggested action points.

However, please do bear in mind that if you are responsible for the running of a school, college or university, you do need to take comprehensive legal advice to ensure that every aspect of the law change is completely understood and acted upon. …