Legal obligations and the responsibilities of education providers

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​Inclusive education is about making sure all children and students, regardless of their abilities, are able to participate and reach their full potential in kindergarten and school. Education providers are legally required to make sure students with disability are given the same opportunity as their peers to participate, learn and succeed throughout their education.

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Disability Discrimination Act 1992

What the law says

The Disability Discrimination Act (the Act) says it’s against the law to treat someone less favourably or do something that disadvantages them because of their disability.

The Act makes it unlawful for an education provider, including kindergartens, schools and TAFEs, to discriminate on the grounds of a student’s disability. The Disability Standards for Education (the Standards) explain what these laws mean in practice.

What disability means

The Act’s broad definition of disability makes sure that everyone with disability is protected against discrimination.

The Act defines disability as:

  • total or partial loss of the person's bodily or mental functions
  • total or partial loss of a part of the body
  • the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness
  • the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness
  • the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person's body
  • a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction
  • a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour.

The definition of disability in the Act includes physical, intellectual, mental health and learning disabilities and disorders.

It also includes a disability or illness that a person:

  • has now
  • had in the past
  • may have in the future
  • is believed to have.

The Act also specifies you cannot discriminate against a person with disability because they:

  • use a palliative, therapeutic or assistive device
  • are accompanied by a carer, interpreter, reader or assistant
  • are accompanied by a guide or hearing dog or other trained assistant animal.

Disability discrimination also occurs when people are treated unfairly because they have family, friends, carers, co-workers or associates with disability.

Find out more

Learn more about the Disability Discrimination Act on:

Disability Standards for Education 2005

The Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards) were developed under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. The Standards explain your obligations and the rights of students with disability.

The Standards say children and students with disability have the right to take part in their education on the same basis as their peers without disability.

This applies to all parts of school life including in the classroom, sport, excursions and camps.

All education providers, including kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and TAFEs, must meet the Disability Standards for Education.

The Standards place three main obligations on education providers:

  1. Obligation to consult with the student and their parent/carer(s)
  2. Obligation to make reasonable adjustments
  3. Obligation to eliminate harassment and victimisation.

Rights and responsibilities under the Standards

The students’ rights

On the same basis as their peers, students with disability have the right to:

  • enrol in their designated neighbourhood mainstream government education provider
  • take part in their education including in the classroom, excursions and camps, sport, and work experience
  • develop their skills and knowledge through for example, learning materials and supplementary programs
  • access general student support such as career advice, and specialist support services such as speech pathologists and psychologists
  • get an education without any discrimination caused by harassment and victimisation.

Responsibilities of education providers

Schools and other education providers must meet obligations regarding:

  • Enrolment
  • Participation
  • Curriculum
  • Student support services
  • Harassment and victimisation.

To make sure a student’s rights are met under these areas, education providers responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • talking to the student, and their parents/carers if necessary, about their disability and how it may affect their ability to take part in their education
  • making sure the enrolment process is accessible
  • making reasonable adjustments to the students learning materials, or teaching method and/or learning environment
  • making sure students have access to student support services such as allied health professionals like speech pathologists or psychologists
  • taking steps to make sure students with disability get an education without discrimination from harassment and victimisation, for example develop and carry out strategies to prevent harassment or victimisation.

See the Australian Government’s Department of Education website for further information about the Disability Standards for Education.

Disability standards for education eLearning

Education providers can learn more about their obligations under the Standards through the Disability standards for education eLearning - a series of interactive, scenario-based resources.

Access to the resources is free and can be used to meet your professional development obligations (if a certificate of completion is provided).