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Academia and SENDA


Note: guidance was previously on the 'Teaching, learning and assessment' webpage Section 14.1:

Policy on Academia and SENDA (Special Educational Needs and Disability Discrimination Act).

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Discrimination Act (SENDA) amends the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which in turn amends the Education Act. SENDA therefore forms part of the legislative structure governing the University’s education provision.

The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against students with a disability and requires that reasonable adjustments be made to courses and their presentation to accommodate students covered by the Act.

The duties under the Act are anticipatory; the University must therefore be considering what it can do to accommodate students covered by the Act prior to their application or acceptance.

This manual gives guidelines for academic staff as to what anticipatory reasonable adjustments need to be made. The manual also aims to allay some of the fears academic staff may feel with regard to dealing with students with a disability. This is done by the use of both specific examples of what specific needs may be presented (by a range of disabilities) and a guide to some more generic anticipatory adjustments (in the summary). Importantly the manual indicates the support available for academic staff to enable the inclusion of students covered by the Act and in so doing be sure academic staff are fulfilling their legal requirements.

It is important to remember that members of academic staff are not required to become expert in disability issues, in the same way Student Services cannot become experts in academic fields. With teamwork both can achieve inclusion of students covered by the Act.

The Act is unusual in that the “responsible body” is required to prove compliance with the law. If a person covered by the Act claims to have been discriminated against, the “responsible body” must prove that it has made reasonable adjustments and having done so is still unable to provide the person with their chosen course. The Act therefore requires reasonable adjustments to have been made whether a student is included or not and that these are made in an anticipatory manner.

Therefore, the easiest way, to ensure compliance with SENDA is to embrace the spirit of the law and to be actively working towards the inclusion of people covered by the Act.


14.1.1 Introduction

The objective of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Discrimination Act (SENDA) is to ensure that students are not denied access to, or substantially disadvantaged in, education because they have a disability.

There are two ways to approach compliance with the law:

  1. An acceptance of the principle under which the law was passed.
  2. The negative approach of avoiding legislation.

The University’s intention is to adopt the principle under which the law was passed; this being the most effective way of complying with the law.

This policy is written for the use of academic staff as a reference for becoming aware of the needs of students with disabilities, and as a framework of procedures required to prove compliance with the Act.

It is necessary to follow these procedures to comply with the University’s legal obligations under the Education Act as specifically amended by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA). Under these Acts the University must act in an anticipatory manner to prepare for the education of students with specific needs. This policy forms part of this anticipatory preparation.

If you are already including, adapting to include or preparing to include students with disabilities within your modules and programmes then you are making efforts to comply with the law and all that is needed is to keep a record of the adjustments you have made or considered.

The objective of this policy is to dispel some of the anxieties that academic staff may have. In order to do this, information in the body of the report is minimised where possible to lists. More detailed information is included within appendices. The simple guidelines given in this document are to help staff “get started”. These will be developed in light of experience and increasing knowledge to continually improve the University’s provision.

The easiest way to comply with the requirements of SENDA is to make reasonable adjustments, enabling students with a disability to have the best possible access to study materials and facilities. The University will provide courses for people covered by the Act, therefore, the consequences of non-compliance are not considered. However, to leave no doubt that this is necessary, the following section outlines the requirements as laid down by the Act.


14.1.2 What is SENDA?

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Discrimination Act (SENDA) was passed in 2001. It is amending legislation and became Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) (DDA).

This also amends legislation and becomes part of the Education Act. SENDA therefore is part of the legislature governing educational institutions. The University of St Andrews under the terms of SENDA is a “responsible body”.


14.1.3 Who is a student?

The meaning of student is very wide. It includes:

  • Full and part-time students.
  • Postgraduate and undergraduate students.
  • Home, EU and international students.
  • Students on short courses and taster courses.
  • Students taking evening classes and day schools.
  • Distance and e-learning students.
  • Students undertaking only part of a course or visiting from another institution.

14.1.4 What is classified as a disability?

SENDA gives rights to people with a disability, that is, those with a "physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day to day activities". The Act uses a wide definition of disabled person. It can include people with:

  • Physical or mobility impairments.
  • Visual impairments.
  • Hearing impairments.
  • Dyslexia.
  • Medical conditions.
  • Mental health difficulties.

14.1.5 Are all staff liable?

The responsible body (the governing body) is legally liable for the actions of all of its employees and agents. Its only defence, if an agent or employee discriminates against a student or applicant with disabilities, is that it took all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination occurring. Staff development is clearly one step that an institution can take. Training therefore needs to be available to all staff, for example:

  • Employees and contract workers.
  • Full and part-time staff.
  • Academic staff and research students undertaking teaching.
  • Technicians and lab assistants.
  • Caretakers and security staff, cleaners and wardens.
  • Front line staff and senior managers.
  • Admissions tutors and admissions officers.
  • Administrative and central services staff.

14.1.6 What does SENDA actually mean for staff?

The responsible body is legally liable for the actions of the institution as a whole, and also for:

  • The actions of individual employees of the institution in the course of their employment, whether they are full, part-time or temporary.

  • The actions of agents, including contractors, visiting speakers, etc.

SENDA makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled applicants, potential applicants or enrolled students. Individuals may also be held responsible for aiding an unlawful act if they knowingly discriminate against a student or applicant with disabilities.

Applicants and potential students include those attending open days or interviews, those receiving a prospectus, or those targeted by recruitment drives and outreach work.


14.1.7 What can't we do?

SENDA makes it unlawful for a responsible body to discriminate against students with disabilities:

  • In admissions or enrolments of students.

  • In the terms on which admissions or enrolment offers are made.

  • By refusing or deliberately omitting to accept an application for admission or enrolment.

  • In the provision of services provided wholly or mainly for students or those enrolled on courses. This includes provision such as courses of education, training, recreation, leisure and catering facilities or accommodation.

Similarly, local education authorities or education providers may not discriminate in the “services” they provide, or offer to provide, for people wholly or mainly enrolled on courses.

Responsible bodies of institutions have an additional duty not to discriminate against students with a disability by excluding them temporarily or permanently from the institution on the grounds of their disability.

Responsible bodies for Youth and Community Services may not discriminate against people with disabilities in any of the provisions they make.


14.1.8 What is discrimination?

There are two ways in which a student with disabilities can be discriminated against:

When the responsible body treats a person with a disability less favourably, for a reason relating to the person’s disability, than it treats (or would treat) a person to whom that reason does not, or would not, apply and that treatment cannot be justified.

When the responsible body fails to make a reasonable adjustment when a student with a disability is placed, or likely to be placed, at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with a person who is not disabled, without justification.


14.1.9 How can we avoid discrimination?

Under SENDA the responsible body’s duty to make reasonable adjustments is an anticipatory duty owed to people and students with a disability at large. It is not simply a duty to individuals.

This means that responsible bodies should not wait until a student with a disability applies to a course or tries to use a service before thinking about what reasonable adjustments could be made.

Instead, the responsible body should be continually anticipating the requirements of people and students with a disability and the adjustments they could be making for them, such as regular staff development and reviews of practice.

The responsible body must take reasonable steps to ensure that, in relation to the arrangements it makes for determining admissions, a student with a disability is not placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with a person who is not disabled.

For the responsible body to discriminate against someone by treating him or her less favourably because of a disability, the responsible body needs to know about the disability. If the responsible body did not know and could not reasonably have known that a student was disabled, then the student has not been treated less favourably for a reason relating to the disability. In order to claim lack of knowledge about a disability, the responsible body must have taken reasonable steps to find out about the person’s disability.

SENDA is anticipatory and in the event of any legal action this is likely to be considered. Therefore the excuse of never having had a student on a particular course with a particular disability is no reason for not supplying appropriate and timely support, services and teaching.

Procedures need to be in place with the aim of ensuring that the needs of students with disabilities are met quickly, effectively, consistently and at a reasonable cost.


14.1.10 What does SENDA cover?

SENDA applies to all the activities and facilities institutions provide wholly or mainly for students, including, for example:

  • All aspects of teaching and learning, including lectures, lab work, practical work, field trips, work placements, study abroad etc.

  • E-learning, distance learning.

  • Curriculum design, examinations and assessments.

  • Learning resources, including libraries, computer facilities, etc.

  • Research Degrees and research facilitators.

  • Aspects of the physical environment such as buildings, landscaping and equipment.

  • Welfare, counselling and other support services.

  • Catering, residential and leisure facilities.

  • Careers services.


14.1.11 What could we change?

A reasonable adjustment might be any action that helps to alleviate a substantial disadvantage. It might involve:

  • Changing standard institutional procedures.

  • Adapting the curriculum, materials (electronic or other), or modifying the delivery of teaching.

  • Providing additional services, such as a sign language interpreter or materials in Braille.

  • Training staff to work with people who have a disability and to provide appropriate adjustments.

  • Altering the physical environment.


14.1.12 What is reasonable?

Institutions are only expected to do what is "reasonable". What is reasonable will depend on all the individual circumstances of the case, including the importance of the service, financial or other resources of the institution and the practicality of the adjustment. Other issues, such as the need to maintain academic standards, health and safety and the relevant interests of other people, including other students, are also important.

Students with disabilities should reasonably be able to receive information and material in a medium that they can access. This could mean accessible teaching rooms, accessible material or any other means which will enable them to carry out their studies and not be disadvantaged because of their disability.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

Example 1:Teaching staff produce all their handouts in electronic form thus ensuring that they can be easily converted into large print or put into other alternative formats. Therefore staff are anticipating reasonable adjustments that might need to be made.

Example 2:Lecturers put lecture notes on the institution's VLE. Procedures are introduced to ensure that all notes on the intranet meet established guidelines. This is to ensure that students, with specific needs, do not encounter conflicts between specialist computer equipment and computer software. It therefore anticipates reasonable adjustments that it might need to make for students with certain disabilities.

Example 3:A student with a visual impairment is following a distance learning course. S/he could submit essays electronically but receive marked essays by post with hand-written comments in the margins that they are unable to read. The reasonable adjustment would be for comments to be returned electronically.

Examples of less favourable treatment

Admissions: A student in a wheelchair cannot participate fully in the admissions process because it is held at various inaccessible locations around the University. If adjustments aren’t made to allow the student to complete the enrolment process at accessible locations it would probably be unlawful.

Exclusions: A student who develops a visual impairment is excluded from the University because members of staff fear the student will not be able to cope with the course. If members of staff have no evidence to substantiate this fear and no attempt has been made to address this issue with the student, this is likely to be unlawful.

Exams: A student with dyslexia requires extra time and to use a PC to type answers. If refused this is likely to be unlawful.

Lectures: A student who cannot write or take notes easily is prevented, by a tutor, from using a digital recorder in lectures. This is likely to be unlawful.

Provision of Services: A student who is registered blind is told that they cannot train on the sports track because of this, although other students are allowed to train there. This is likely to be unlawful.

Accessing Material: A handout /programme leaflet given to all students is not given in a suitable format to a student with specific needs, when it is the School’s responsibility to do so. This is likely to be unlawful.


14.1.13 Staff training and development

Staff training will improve good practice and will comply with certain aspects of SENDA.

Senior managers and heads of Schools / Units need to have a thorough understanding of their legal responsibilities. Other staff may only need a brief outline of the law.

Members of staff with management responsibility need to know how to make anticipatory adjustments in their Schools / Units.

All members of staff who come into direct contact with students with disabilities and applicants need to know how to respond to a student who discloses a disability.

All members of staff who come into direct contact with students with disabilities need to know how they can make appropriate adjustments for students with disabilities.

All members of staff need to know who, within the University, can offer further advice and information. It may be helpful if one staff member in each department can receive more comprehensive training so that they can act as an initial point of contact. This would normally be the Disabilities Co-ordinator for the School.

All members of staff need to know that they have a responsibility towards students with disabilities.

Specific staff may need training "top-up" sessions in, for example, how to support a student having an epileptic seizure, or how to communicate with a hard of hearing person.


14.1.14 Knowledge of students' disabilities and confidentiality

Institutions are expected to take reasonable steps to find out a student’s disability. For example, students may disclose a disability on the UCAS application form, direct to Student Services using a form enclosed with the Entrants Pack, or on their online Personal Details. Once disclosed, then the University is obliged to make reasonable adjustments.

The Act assumes that a disclosure to a responsible member of staff, counts as a disclosure to the University. It is important therefore for all to know to whom a disclosure must be passed on, namely Student Services, and to guard against any situation in which a student seeks to disclose a disability while requiring the member of staff not to pass on the information. In such circumstances, it is best to inform the student that the member of staff would need to seek the advice of Student Services who might require that the student’s name and disability be revealed in order that the University can exercise its legal obligations to the student.

The University should train academic staff:

  • In University protocols of how to respond if a student discloses a disability to them, and to whom any information should be passed.

  • About the University’s confidentiality policy and what information should, or should not be communicated to others.


14.1.15 Other issues to consider

It is useful for reflection, or if involved in developing staff training, to consider why teaching staff may respond negatively to students with a disability.

Many people have an emotional response to disability, based on suspicion, fear or pity. They may have entrenched attitudes based on prejudice or previous negative (or positive) experiences. For this reason, it may be harder to change attitudes and behaviours relating to disability than on other issues.

Some staff may be misguided in the view that the principle of inclusion is not compatible with the highly competitive “gateway to the professions” represented by a higher education system.” (Pumfrey 1998)

The ‘disability movement’ recommends that disability equality training be delivered by a person with a disability. In itself this may help to challenge entrenched attitudes.

When working with academic staff, involve examples or trainers from the relevant academic discipline, so that the staff development is more relevant and credible.

Involve staff in audits of provision or expertise, so that they become aware of their own development needs.

Draw attention to ways in which the University has already supported students with disabilities to highlight what is possible.


14.1.16 Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

The EHRC is an independent body, established by an Act of Parliament who are responsible for enforcing and promoting equality in terms of age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The EHRC offers a conciliation service for students and institutions to reconcile any differences informally. If both parties do not agree to conciliation, or if conciliation fails, a student or applicant can take a case to the Sheriff Court (in Scotland) or County Court (in England or Wales).


14.1.17 Where can I find out more?

Education and the law

Code of Practice

For information on legal responsibilities towards students with disabilities and applicants, or general information about good practice for students with disabilities, see: Code of Practice for Providers of Post-16 Education and Related Services, available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) (Scottish Office):

Helpline: 0845 604 5510
Textphone: 0845 604 5520

Quality assurance

Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards in Higher Education. Section 3: Students with Disabilities. Available from The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education:;

Other information

Skill - National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

Telephone: 0800 328 5050
Textphone 0800 068 2422

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU)

The ECU was established to support the higher education sector to promote equality. They provide information and guidance on disability as well as the other strands of equality.

The publication: “Disability legislation: practical guidance for academic staff” was revised in 2010.

Equality Challenge Unit, London

Telephone: 020 7438 1010


14.1.18 Guidelines for specific disabilities Introduction

The following information will help you consider how best to support students who have specific learning needs. The lists may look daunting and are not exhaustive; they are merely giving insight to help you think about your students. Each student will have different needs and support requirements and may need some but not all of the elements.

This material will help raise your awareness of the issues and the possible methods by which students covered by SENDA can be included at the University. The Material is presented so that for each disability the guide can be used as a single reference. There is supplementary material in the appendices.

If you require any advice or feel that any points have not been covered then please contact Student Services as soon as possible (telephone 01334 462720 or email

The disabilities considered are visual impairment, hearing impairment, dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome, physical disability, mental health problems and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME).

Details of academic arrangements will be supplied via EDif in e-Vision for each student who has been assessed by Student Services. Visual impairment

The three most important points to remember are:

First and foremost you are dealing with a student; they just happen to have sight loss that may require specific adjustments or help to enable them to study. Therefore ask the student what help they may require.

Most students with sight loss will require material presented in a format that they can access; this can be time consuming, therefore ensure the student has reading lists well in advance.

The most useful help is ‘common sense’.

Approximately only 4% of registered blind or partially sighted people have no sight. Therefore the student may have some degree of ‘useful’ vision. Sight loss varies from person to person, therefore the following are some options that may need to be considered.

Access to materials and books

  • Does the student require large print? If ‘yes’ ask them what font size.
  • Be consistent when preparing material; students with a visual impairment may have difficulty ‘seeing’ pages with a lot of detail on them, in a multitude of colours and differing font sizes.
  • Good quality black print on good quality paper (printed on one side only) is usually the best. However, ask the student what they prefer, some may see black on yellow more easily.
  • Print on one side only.
  • If you are preparing handouts, overheads, or web pages etc make sure an easy to read text-only version is also available.
  • When preparing handouts or OHPsdon’t lay text out in columns, squares etc; keep a simple linear layout wherever possible.
  • If you are writing notes on a whiteboard or overhead transparency make sure the student has a version of the notes that they can access.
  • Alternative formats such as Braille can be arranged by the Alternative Format Suite. Contact Student Services Tel: 01334 462038, email

General good practice

  • Always introduce yourself, for example, “Hello Paul, it’s Dr Smith”. It is no use saying “Hello Paul, it’s me” until the student is used to you and can recognise your voice.
  • It is acceptable to use words like ‘look’ and ‘see’; they are part of our language.
  • However, avoid vague descriptions such as: “The toilet is over there”; for the visually impaired students where is ‘over there’?
  • Do not make comments such as: “For normal people this would be difficult but for someone like you…”
  • Ask the student where it is best for them to sit.
  • Does the student require additional lighting for specific tasks?
  • Will you need to ‘sight guide’ the student to a chair or location? If ‘yes’ are you capable of doing this safely? See Appendix A.
  • Does the student require personal assistant support? If yes contact Student Services (Tel: 462038, email
  • Where applicable practice emergency evacuation procedures from rooms and buildings.

Lectures / tutorials

  • The student may need to record, make Braille notes, or use a note-taker in lectures or tutorials.
  • In discussion groups make sure all participants state their name. A student with a visual impairment may need time to recognise different voices.
  • If using handouts or OHPs, make sure the student has a text only or clear print version.

Practical sessions

  • Ask the student what his or her limitations are; they know better than anyone else does.
  • Uncluttered working areas are required.
  • A different method of labelling may be required.
  • The student may need to follow audio instruction.
  • Allow extra time.
  • The student may need to be close to the instructor to be able to use their residual vision and watch any demonstrations.
  • A personal assistant may be required to undertake verbal instruction given by the visually impaired student.
  • Task lighting may be required.
  • Health and safety has to be considered in consultation with the student.

Field trips

  • Again, ask the student what his or her limitations are; they know better than anyone else does.
  • Health and safety has to be considered in consultation with the student.
  • A sighted guide / personal assistant may be required.
  • Are there alternative locations where fieldwork can be completed?


  • The student will probably require extra time.
  • Exams papers may need to be in Braille, in a print size that the student can read, printed on one side only or in audio. This process can take time, so prepare well in advance.
  • The student may prefer to use Braille, use a computer or use a scribe in exams.
  • A separate room is probably necessary.
  • Is there an alternative to the formal written exams that will equally demonstrate competence?

Where can I find out more? Hearing impairment

The two most important points to remember are:

First and foremost you are dealing with a student; they just happen to have a hearing impairment which may require specific adjustments or help to enable them to study. Therefore ask the student what help they may require.

The most useful help is ‘common sense’.

Access to the spoken word

  • Hearing loss is variable from person to person and very few will have no hearing; therefore the following is a list of options that may need to be considered.
  • Most students with hearing loss will require consideration in the way lectures and tutorials are presented.
  • Does the student need a signing interpreter? (See Appendix B)
  • Does the student communicate using a notepad and pen? If ‘yes’ then keep questions and answers clear and concise.
  • Does the student need a notetaker? If yes: contact Student Services. Telephone 01334 462038 or email
  • Is a loop system required? If yes: contact Student Services. Telephone 01334 462038 or email
  • Does the student lip-read? (See Appendix C)
  • Is lighting in the room good enough for the student to lip-read or watch a signing interpreter?

General points and good practice

  • Students will probably rely heavily on textbooks so give them the reading lists well in advance.
  • Having a copy of lecture / tutorial notes in advance will help the student familiarise themselves with the topic.
  • Provide new vocabulary for the topic in advance, or write it on the board and allow the student time to assimilate it.
  • A student who has never had hearing may have poor written English.
  • Ask the student where it is best for them to sit in lectures / tutorials.
  • The student may require personal assistant support. It can sometimes take time to organise note takers or ‘signers’ (contact Student Services - Telephone 01334 462038 or email
  • A student cannot lip read or watch a ‘signer’ and take notes at the same time.
  • Don’t continue speaking whilst you are writing on the board.
  • If you are showing slides in a darkened room, make sure your face is lit so the student can still lip-read, or provide a written handout of the slides with a task light for the student, or write captions on an OHPto work alongside the slide show.
  • If you use audio in your lectures the student will require a full transcript.
  • If you give a handout during the lecture make sure the student is aware of when it needs to be read – now or later. If ‘now’ give the student time to read it before you start to speak again.
  • Wherever possible use videos or DVDs with subtitles, or obtain a transcript of the documentary.
  • Clearly indicate when the subject changes, such as writing the new topic on the board.
  • Write down all deadlines, assignments or room changes etc so that the student knows when they are.
  • Allow the student regular opportunities to review what has been covered.
  • Do not make comments such as, “For normal people this would be difficult but for someone like you…”


  • The seating in the room may need to be rearranged into a ‘horseshoe’ or circle making sure that nobody has a bright light / window behind them.
  • The student will probably find it difficult to follow and participate when there are more than 6 – 8 students in a tutorial.
  • The student may wish to sit next to the tutor as questions etc. will normally be directed there.
  • Make sure there is room for either a note-taker or interpreter.
  • If a loop system is used make sure all students can access the microphone.
  • Make sure other students in the tutorial have the attention of the hearing impaired student before they speak.

Practical sessions

  • The student will not be able to carry out the practical work whilst at the same time lip-reading or watching an interpreter; therefore allow extra time.
  • The student will not be able to watch demonstrations whilst at the same time lip-reading or watching an interpreter; therefore allow extra time.
  • Do not stand behind the student and give instruction.
  • Always make sure you have the student’s attention before speaking or continuing the demonstration.

Field trips

  • Some hearing aids amplify everything to the same level; therefore the student can have great difficulty ignoring irrelevant noise. Consideration needs to be made outdoors where there is traffic or indoors where there is, for example, machinery noise. Ask the student how best to deal with any difficulties.


  • Visual cues and prompts may be required to inform the student of the beginning and ending of exams.
  • The student may require a sign language interpreter.
  • The student may require a scribe.
  • The student may need to use a computer.
  • The exam paper may need to be prepared in language which is succinct.

Where can I find out more? Dyslexia

The three most important points to remember are:

First and foremost you are dealing with a student; they just happen to have dyslexia which may require specific adjustments or help to enable them to study. Therefore ask the student what help they may require.

Most students with dyslexia will require more time to read and write, therefore ensure the student has reading lists well in advance.

The most useful help is ‘common sense’.

Access to materials and books

  • Good quality black print on good quality paper (printed on one side only) is usually the best.
  • Does the student require larger print? If ‘yes’ ask them what font size.
  • Students who are severely dyslexic may prefer to use audio rather than print. Ensure the student has reading lists well in advance; if their preferred medium of study is aural then this must be arranged (contact Student Services - Telephone 01334 462038 or email
  • If you are preparing handouts, overheads or web pages then make sure an easy to read text only version is also available.
  • Be consistent when you prepare material; students with dyslexia may have difficulty reading pages with a lot of detail on them in a multitude of colours, and differing font sizes.
  • Students with dyslexia will probably need more time to read material and prepare for assignments.
  • Students may have difficulty organising their time because of the additional preparation needed.


  • The student may require extra time.
  • Bigger print exams papers printed on one side only may be required.
  • A scribe may be required.
  • The student may need to use a computer.
  • If the student has very severe dyslexia alternative assessments may be appropriate.

Where can I find out more? Asperger's Syndrome (a form of autistic spectrum disorder)

The student is a student first, then an individual who may require specific adjustments because of their specific needs.

People with Asperger’s Syndrome find it more difficult to read the social cues which most of us take for granted. They may have difficulties with communication, with social relationships and with abstract ideas. Autism has been renamed as Autistic Spectrum Disorder in recognition of the fact that people will be at different points on the spectrum – like everyone else people with Asperger’s Syndrome are unique way and usually have their own perspective and interpretation of life.

People with Asperger’s Syndrome can take language literally. Comments like, “I’m starving” or “I could murder a hamburger” may be taken as a true statement of fact. Avoid colloquial expressions such as, “Pop in and see me”, be very specific, giving a date and a time.

Some of the conditions that may occur with Asperger Syndrome:

  • Vocabulary may appear advanced but student may not fully comprehend the words they are using.
  • May avoid eye contact.
  • Often find change difficult and can become distressed with sudden changes.
  • May be very rigid in their thinking and routines.
  • May find it difficult to organise their time and timetables flexibly.
  • May need personal assistant support to help with organising work and timetables etc. Contact Student Services - Telephone 01334 462038 or email
  • May be clumsy, have poor co-ordination or ungainly movement.
  • Often have difficulty making friends and maintaining friends.
  • May say ‘things’ that would otherwise appear rude and socially unacceptable.
  • May tire quickly in tutorial groups because of effort of dealing with several people.


Students may:

  • Become agitated if ‘their’ seat in lectures / tutorials is taken by someone else.
  • Have difficulty in lectures / tutorials relating to other people. Usually interact better on a one-to-one basis.
  • Have difficulty in maintaining motivation on parts of the course that require essay writing for example. May require more time and find difficulty where there is no ‘correct answer’, only opinion and judgement.
  • Have difficulty adapting to change; notify well in advance of any timetable or room changes.

The student is far more effective if what is being studied is clearly mapped out for them in a very structured way.


Students may:

  • Need to see room prior to exam so that they know what to expect.
  • Need to see Past Papers.
  • Require extra time.
  • Require a separate room.
  • Want to know how many other students are sitting the exam.

Make sure student knows the date, time and duration of exams. Exam and test questions must be asked clearly; students with Asperger’s Syndrome usually have difficulty with ‘assumptions’.

Where can I find out more? Physical disability

The three most important points to remember are:

First and foremost you are dealing with a student; they just happen to have a physical disability which may require specific adjustments or help to enable them to study. Therefore ask the student what help they may require.

Access to buildings is one of the major difficulties for students with a physical disability; therefore planning the location well in advance is important.

The most useful help is ‘common sense’.

Access to buildings

  • Is the lecture / tutorial room accessible; ramps, door handle heights, door widths, lift, wheelchair space?
  • Where is the accessible toilet?
  • Where is the location of reserved parking?
  • What are the emergency evacuation procedures?

Practical sessions

  • If student uses a wheelchair are there working areas that are of accessible height?
  • Is there enough space for a wheelchair?
  • Are all items to be used easily reachable?

Field trips

  • Health and safety has to be considered in consultation with the student.
  • Ask the student where his or her limitations are; they will know better than anyone else.
  • A personal assistant may be required (Contact Student Services - Telephone 01334 462038 or email
  • Are there alternative locations where fieldwork can be completed?


  • Is the room accessible?
  • Is there an accessible toilet close by?
  • Is there reserved parking, if required?
  • A separate room may be required.
  • Additional time may be required.
  • An alternative to a written exam may be required.
  • Exams may need to be spread over several days.

Where can I find out more? Mental health

Mental health problems

The scope of mental health problems is vast; below are some of the most common problems.

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Self harm

The person will usually be aware that they are having problems.

  • Schizophrenia
  • Manic depression

The person may not be aware that they are having problems, they lose touch with reality and don’t realise that their behaviour is uncharacteristic or inappropriate. The student will almost certainly require on-going treatment including medication after diagnosis and if the student stops taking it there will probably be a marked difference in personality and behaviour.


A student with a mental health illness is likely not to want others to know of the problem; therefore it may be very difficult to pinpoint what help and support is required. Very often, unless there is a change in behaviour or personality there can be very little evidence to go on.

However, if you are at all concerned about a student, then you could speak to the individual direct in an empathetic way or contact Student Services (Telephone 01334 462038) for advice. For reasons of confidentiality Student Services is not able to disclose details of a student’s mental illness to a School or Unit without the student’s prior consent. If ‘your’ student insists on confidentiality and refuses to let you contact anyone, then obtain a signed statement from him or her and countersign it yourself stating that you have offered help that has been declined.

Stress is known to contribute to mental health problems. A student at University may feel stressed due to:

  • Academic pressures.
  • Social pressures.
  • Moving to a new area away from family and friends.
  • Experiencing a new country and culture as an international student.
  • Financial pressure — lack of funds, combining studying with paid part time work.
  • Studying whilst supporting a family.
  • Poor health or recurring illness.

Some students will have long term problems, which, for example, reappear in times of stress. Others will be experiencing mental health problems for the first time.

Possible signs of mental illness

A student's mental health condition may present in various ways:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Extreme low self esteem and poor confidence.
  • Inability to concentrate and/or make decisions.
  • Memory problems.
  • Severe mood swings.
  • Difficulty working with and relating to other people.
  • Lack of participation.
  • Difficulties with motivation.
  • Changes in behaviour.
  • Inappropriate behaviour.
  • Drowsiness (especially in the mornings).

Mental health problems and side effects of treatment may cause difficulties in some of the following:

  • Working in groups.
  • Being around large groups of people, for example, in lectures, libraries, examinations. This may cause anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Relating to and working with other people (peers or academics).
  • Time keeping and attendance.
  • Too much concentration on detail.
  • Tendency to overwork.
  • Poor exam performance due to anxiety, lack of energy etc.
  • Difficulty sustaining effort — academic performance may be erratic.
  • Making choices and prioritising workloads.
  • Meeting assignment deadlines.

However if the student has declared that they have a mental health problem some of the following may be necessary, or appropriate, for teaching and / or exams:

  • Exams in a separate, or smaller room.
  • Designated seating in exam halls, for example near a door or window.
  • Exams with time allowances because of medication.
  • Laptop computer to allow work from home when the student is too ill to attend University.
  • Personal support — the student may need a particular person to go to if difficulties arise e.g. a member of staff or postgraduate student.

Where can I find out more? Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)

ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is believed to be caused by an abnormal response to a virus. It is a chronic condition that can last from a few months to a number of years. ME is considered to be a disability under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act. Most importantly remember that you are dealing with a student; they just happen to have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which may require specific adjustments or help to enable them to study. Therefore ask the student what help they may require.

Symptoms can include:

  • Physical and mental exhaustion.
  • Pain in muscles and joints.
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fainting.
  • Impaired concentration and memory.

ME is an unseen disability and due to this, students often have difficulty in convincing people of the severity of their condition. However, its effects are extremely debilitating, and can have a serious impact on the student's quality of life. Students may worry about their ability to sleep in the Halls of Residence. They may also be concerned about their ability to cope with an increased workload and the extra pressures of living away from home for the first time.

General good practice

  • Be sympathetic and give students the opportunity to discuss their difficulties.

Access to materials and books

  • Some students may need their books and material in an aural format due to difficulties in ‘holding’ or ‘looking’.

Lectures / tutorials / practical sessions and field trips

  • Ask the student what their limitations are; they know better than anyone else does.
  • Be tolerant of absence, and try to help students gain access to class notes where possible.
  • If a student appears lethargic, be aware that this is an effect of the disability rather than lack of interest in the course.
  • Try to be flexible with assignment deadlines.


  • Students may require extra time in exams.
  • Exams may need to be ‘spread’ or ‘broken up’ into portions rather than sitting for up to three hours in one go.

Where can I find out more?


14.1.19 Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

The most far-reaching adjustment to course material that can be made at this stage is its preparation in electronic format. This is due to the relatively easy and rapid alteration of the final presentation format.

Many members of academic staff are already using the VLE for course presentations. This preparation can therefore be used to improve the learning experience for all students and move towards compliance with SENDA.

Under SENDA any judgement of the University will be made against the students learning experience. Therefore where the VLE is used the material must also comply with SENDA.

It is important however to remember what the VLE actually does. The system enables staff to present course materials using a “web” environment. The material presented is not converted or checked for accessibility. The accessibility of the material is dependent upon how it is prepared and not the fact that it appears on the VLE. The VLE is therefore a shop window in which your material is displayed; whether or not it is accessible is solely down to how it is prepared.

For information on staff development for Moodle contact CAPOD- Telephone 01334 462141, email

Copyright and intellectual property cannot be used as a reason not to make material accessible. The VLE, however, enables selective release of material. Those students who have a right to access such material under the DDA may do so whilst those not so entitled are unaware that this adjusted material exists. The material, the author’s rights and the student’s rights are therefore satisfied.

This selective release can also be used to allow modification to online assessments which allow a set time for the student to answer; an alternative for students where this method is inappropriate can be developed and every student then has access to their appropriate online assessment. Whilst it is recognised that this online assessment is used for formative assessment and will not affect a student’s final grade, it does effect the student’s learning experience.

Considering the accessibility of the material whilst first designing the course will avoid unnecessary repeated modifications.


14.1.20 Accessible websites

75% of web-site information is ‘imaged-based’; these multimedia-rich sites are inaccessible to many people such as those who are blind or partially sighted. In the UK there are almost 20 million people who cannot access print easily. Complicated graphics, animations, varying fonts and print sizes, wallpaper backgrounds and multiple colours are confusing and inaccessible for those who require simple clear colour contrasted information.

It has become evident that webpage designers have largely ignored accessible web pages. It must not be forgotten that students are accessing information via webpages and these, therefore, must also be accessible under the DDA.

If the guidelines below are followed then webpage accessibility will be improved.

  • When designing a web page with an accessible text alternative ensure that the information regarding this is at the top of the menu.
  • Provide text equivalents for all non-text objects – speech synthesisers and / or Braille displays cannot read graphics.
  • Avoid ‘bullets’ in a web page - screen readers (voice) are confused by them. Use numbers instead.
  • Speech synthesisers and renewable Braille displays cannot read digital images.
  • All graphics should have text labels, i.e. alternative attributes in HTML (HyperText Markup Language.)
  • Some students who have been deaf from birth may have poorly developed reading skills and therefore clear, simple language will help.
  • For audio and visual text-based transcripts with a link to a ‘script’, make sure the link is close to the transcript.

Where can I find out more?

The following are websites where further information regarding web accessibility is available:


14.1.21 Clear print guidelines

Using the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) Goods and Services as a guide, there is now a requirement of institutions and organisations to offer access to their information by means other than what one would describe as normal print.

It is now reasonable for all organisations and institutions to consider other methods of enabling access to information. The most obvious alternative methods are Braille, audiotape and electronic. However, the majority of those with a visual / print impairment are still able to access print, albeit in a larger size.

Following the clear print guidelines will help a huge number of people to read print. Due to the huge variety of visual / print impairments it is impossible to devise a ‘print standard’, which will meet all needs. These guidelines aim to describe a few inexpensive, common sense steps that can easily be taken, which will benefit the majority of people who do not require Braille or audiotape.


Probably the single most important factor. Black type on white or yellow paper gives a very good contrast. However, if using other colours the ink should be as dark as possible on a very pale background. Avoid printing in yellow, orange, pink etc. and avoid ink which is a similar colour to its background.

Print size

If it is known that the end reader has no difficulty accessing print then 12 point is recommended. However, for most people who are suffering sight loss a minimum of 16 point is required. Unless specifically requested there is probably little point in enlarging type above 24 point.


Arial is recommended: italics or bizarre fonts should be avoided. No more than two fonts in any document should be used.


People who have difficulty reading print can also misread numbers. The numbers 3, 5 and 8, or 0 and 6 can be misread, therefore ensure that the style used is clear.


Stick to even word spacing. Do not condense or stretch lines of type, or worse, single words. Use unjustified right hand margins, as in this document. If it is known that the end user has a sight problem or is severely dyslexic for example, use a minimum of 1.5 line spacing.

Line length

Ideally 50 - 65 characters. An individual may ask for shorter lines in order to ‘track’ the lines of print more easily. Avoid splitting words at the end of lines.


Paper should have a matt surface in order to reduce the reflection of light. Thin paper may also cause problems if text is visible from the reverse. Good quality paper with dark ink is best.

Capital letters

Although one or two words in capitals may present no serious difficulties, capitals must be avoided for continuous text. Using capitals to try and increase size does not help the reader as this reduces the ability to recognise the ‘shape’ or ‘pattern’ of the word.

Design and layout

  • Layouts should be simple and clear. Avoid unnecessary ‘decoration’ around printed text.
  • Avoid running text across a photograph or illustration.
  • Use plain English. Avoid unnecessarily complex sentence structure. Use everyday words wherever possible. Keep it simple.
  • Avoid densely packed pages; maintain as much white space as possible.
  • Avoid layouts that include columns and boxes, as specialist reading equipment and software can become confused, and those with a visual impairment or dyslexia may have difficulty following where the text is going.
  • Include clear contents list where applicable, clearly differentiated headings, and explanations regarding separated sections.


People who are visually impaired often have larger than average writing; therefore forms need to be redesigned for their use in order to avoid the need for filling in small boxes.


The purpose of signs is also information and communication. Student Services (telephone 01334 462038, email have information regarding guidelines which would comply with the DDA.

Where can I find out more?


14.1.22 Summary and generic anticipatory adjustments

The intention of the Act is to enable students with a disability to receive an education without discrimination. If you are making reasonable efforts to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities then you are complying with the legislation.

You do not need to become disability experts. If you have any questions or doubts you can contact your School’s Disability Co-ordinator; if they cannot handle your query they can in turn get advice from Student Services (telephone 01334 462038, email

Student Services can only advise on disability issues. They are not experts in your subject; you are. They cannot prepare course content for you, as they would not understand the subject matter or educational nuances required in preparation.

It is for each School to decide how best to make the necessary adjustments, since this will depend on the subject matter. However, it would save effort to make anticipatory adjustments during the normal review process. It may also be prudent to make anticipatory adjustments to courses with the highest uptake first, these being the most likely to receive an application from a student with a disability.


14.1.23 What can be done in anticipation?

There are things that can be done which make it possible to quickly produce the material in whatever format a student may require. The most obvious of these is to prepare handouts and note material in electronic format. These can then quickly be adjusted into whatever format is required.

During the preparation of web pages consider the accessibility of the material you are preparing. Test some web pages with the free trials available and if necessary improve your skills with the staff development courses available. It is also possible that these additional skills will benefit all your students.

Consider how much of the course material is “core” and only changes slowly year on year, and how much is constantly changing. It may be possible to pre-record core material in an audio media or have it pre-signed on video, so that only quickly changing material has to be dealt with urgently. The most up-to-date and certainly most accessible format for students is DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem), as once in this format material can easily be updated and is fully accessible to students with disabilities. See

However, to produce any material in an alternative format takes time and it is your responsibility to ensure that reading lists are available early enough to allow production, as well as to provide the extra time it takes students to ‘read’ material that isn’t ‘normal print’.

Consider lecture and seminar presentation techniques. Pay a visit to the websites listed under specific disabilities to assess where techniques, lighting, facilities etc. may require adjustment.

Consider practical work, demonstrations, fieldtrips, work placements and other situations where the student may be unfamiliar with surroundings and people. Consider what can be done to ensure that students with disabilities are not disadvantaged during these activities.

Consider assessment techniques: it is easy to assume that exams and assignments “must” be completed in the recognised and laid down way. There are of course exceptions where deviations from the norm will enable students to demonstrate their competency, will fulfil the ‘reasonable adjustment’ element of the Disability Discrimination Act, and will maintain the standards required by the University.

One approach may be to consider a particular course and list the reasons why a person with a disability could not do the course. Using the websites listed under the specific disabilities you may find ways to overcome these obstacles. If you are unable to find a way to enable attendance then refer to your School’s Disability Co-ordinator and / or Student Services.

Whilst you are spending this time and making the effort to include people with a disability, keep a record of what you are doing; it may be some time until you are called upon to use these skills. Your notes may also help other members of staff, and if necessary will help prove that you are not discriminating; your records providing evidence.

Time spent on these sites and considering your course and its material in the light of students with a disability is also beneficial in raising your own awareness and knowledge and thereby reducing any fear of the unknown.


14.1.24 Examples of accessibility

The following are merely examples of how adjustments can be made. Any forward planning and awareness will fulfil the ‘anticipatory’ element of SENDA.

The symbols in logic are very pictorial as are the formulae they are used in. For a student with no sight a suggestion would be to have a tactile representation of the symbols with the ability to lay them out as a formula. This tactile representation would work alongside other methods of study the student uses.

The same issues might apply in Chemistry, Physics & Astronomy, Computer Science and Mathematics & Statistics.

The above examples illustrate how a situation may appear, at first sight, to be impractical and at worst impossible. However with better awareness, some thought and effort, working with the student and with advice from Student Services the “impossible” can be achieved and is something to be proud of.


14.1.25 Appendices Appendix A - Visual impairment - sighted guide

  • Don’t take the student’s arm (this position puts ‘you’ in control).
  • Don’t push the student ahead of you.
  • Do suggest that the student takes your arm or elbow (this position puts the visually impaired person in control).
  • Do make sure you are very slightly ahead of the person you are guiding.
  • Do tell the student that you are approaching stairs and whether they are ‘up’ or ‘down’.
  • Do tell the student about obstacles that you are approaching.
  • Do remember that when you are guiding someone you are two people wide and the person you are guiding may be taller than you so consider height of obstacles too.
  • Do tell the student you are approaching a door and which way the door opens.
  • Do move your guiding arm slightly behind you as you enter narrow areas, this will alert the student and they will move behind you too.
  • Do get the student to hold the door with their free hand as you go through together.
  • Do let the student find the back of a chair, they can then find their way to the front to sit down.
  • If you are at all unsure then please contact Student Services - telephone 01334 462038, email - who will show you the correct technique. Appendix B - Hearing impairment - signing interpreter

  • If an interpreter is used then do not speak to them; they are there purely to interpret not to participate. Speak directly to the student.
  • The interpreter will need to stand or sit close to the speaker and near to any visual aids. The student and interpreter will work out the best place.
  • Talk at your normal speed but be prepared if the interpreter asks you to slow down slightly, to spell particular words or explain acronyms etc.
  • The student will watch the interpreter and will relate questions back to you through the interpreter.
  • Interpreting is very tiring and the interpreter may require frequent breaks.
  • An interpreter can only interpret one speaker at a time so make sure other students allow time for the interpretation of each speaker. Appendix C - Hearing impairment - lip reading

  • The student knows where it is best for them to sit. This is often near the front and slightly to one side. The tutor should face the student; usually 3 – 6 feet away and at the same level.
  • Before you start to speak make sure the student is looking at you. To attract their attention it is OK to wave, flick light switch on/off, or get the person next to them to ‘cue’ them.
  • Do not stand with a window or bright light behind you – face the light.
  • Do not stand in front of a highly patterned wall.
  • Make sure there aren’t people walking or moving about around you.
  • Do not obscure your mouth with your hands, papers, pens etc.
  • It is hard to lip-read someone with a long moustache or shaggy beard.
  • Do not eat or chew whilst you are speaking.
  • Make sure background noise is minimal.
  • Don’t turn away whilst you are speaking.
  • Avoid exaggerated or misleading facial expressions.
  • There is no need to shout as this changes mouth shape.
  • Sentences and phrases are easier to read than single words.
  • If the student hasn’t ‘caught’ what you have said then ‘rephrase’ it.
  • Use gestures where they are relevant.
  • Give the student time to absorb what you have said.
  • Write things down if you need to clarify them.
  • If you change the subject make sure the student is aware.
  • Lip-reading can be very tiring; allow breaks. This could be to look at illustrations, slides, handouts etc. Appendix D - Useful web addresses





Human Resources

University of St Andrews
The Old Burgh School

Abbey Walk
St Andrews
KY16 9LB
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44(0)1334 463096