Skip to main content

Disabled people

People with impairments may face barriers to education and employment in HEIs. Providing support and adjustments can remove these barriers and therefore support the development of an inclusive environment.

Higher education institutions and colleges provide education and employment opportunities to their staff and students. The way that these are provided may present barriers which disable people with impairments from fully accessing and benefiting. People with different impairments, and people who disclose similar impairments, may experience different disabling barriers.

These barriers may be:

  • Physical: for example the design of the built environment
  • Procedural: for example the way a course is delivered
  • Social: for example negative attitudes towards disabled people – whether consciously or unconsciously held

HEIs can provide a range of support and adjustments remove or mitigate the effect of the barrier. Support and adjustments can be provided on an individual level, or can anticipate barriers and remove these in advance for all students.

Case studies relating to disability

Reasonable adjustments and inclusive education environments.

Read more

Disabled Students Commission

The Disabled Students’ Commission (DSC), announced by the former Universities Minister on 28 June 2019, will replace the Disabled Students Sector Leadership Group (DSSLG).

This new, independent and strategic group seeks to take the DSSLG work forward, with its key priority to advise, inform and influence higher education providers to improve support for disabled students.

Find out more
Disabled Students Commission

Consult staff and students

Disabled staff and students must be actively involved in decisions regarding their support and adjustments to ensure that these are effective. It is advisable that staff who are experts in providing support for disabled people, and staff who have knowledge of particular barriers (for example, academics with knowledge of their course requirements and its assessment, are also involved in these decisions.

Monitor and evaluate adjustments

Monitoring and evaluate the range of individual adjustments that have been made will help you to effectively resource and implement adjustments across the whole institution. This approach allows an institution to develop an accessible learning and working environment where a range of support mechanisms are available to all users of the institution.

Advance HE’s publication Managing reasonable adjustments in higher education covers guidance on funding and resourcing reasonable adjustments and publicising entitlements and available resources.

Training packs have been developed to help staff providing services to anticipate and remove disabling barriers and provide an inclusive service for all staff and students.

Related publications

Equality in colleges in Scotland: An analysis of the qualitative data of disabled staff experiences

The Social and affirmative models in higher education: an intro

An inclusive approach to careers advice and guidance for disabled students

Anticipating reasonable adjustments: equality and diversity training pack

Training materials to adapt and use in your institution

Understanding the interaction of competence standards and reasonable adjustments

A competence standard is a particular level of competence or ability that a student must demonstrate to be accepted on to, progress within and successfully complete a course or programme of study.

Disability services: supporting international students

Helping staff in disability services to support international students

Understanding adjustments: supporting staff and students who are experiencing mental health difficulties

Research into disclosure and support mechanisms for staff and students experiencing mental health difficulties