Students with disabilities


1. Purpose

The University of South Australia recognises disability is part of human diversity and aspires to create an inclusive and equitable environment that supports full access and participation in all aspects of university life. This policy outlines the University’s commitment to supporting students with disabilities and those who are unpaid carers of people with disabilities, in line with equal opportunity and social justice principles.

2. Policy Statement

The University will implement processes that enable students with disabilities to have equal access to study. These mechanisms will be outlined in the Students with Disabilities Procedures.  

The University will further demonstrate its commitment to equality and inclusion through the continuing development and implementation of an organisational-wide disability inclusion Action Plan.

3. Principles

3.1. The following principles underpin the policy, consistent with the University's legislative responsibilities and commitment to equality of access and outcomes for all students. Inclusive practice is the primary approach for accommodating the needs of people with disabilities at the University of South Australia. Wherever practical, barriers will be removed or reduced in a systemic manner to enable full participation and eliminate discrimination.
3.2. The University recognises that people with disabilities are best placed to understand their needs. Consequently, students share the responsibility for identifying and implementing appropriate solutions to support their participation in study.
3.3. Provision of appropriate services to students with disabilities is the responsibility of all relevant organisational areas within the University. Particular advice and/or services may be provided by a unit or individual with specialist expertise.
3.4. Services and reasonable adjustments must maintain academic standards and integrity.
3.5. The University is committed to upholding the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and to meeting its obligations under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005.

4. Scope

4.1. This policy applies to University of South Australia students with a disability and those who are unpaid carers of a person with a disability.
4.2. This policy extends to those services being provided to current and prospective students irrespective of the mode of delivery.
4.3. Where partner organisations are engaged in the provision of services those partners will share responsibility for the provision of appropriate services and reasonable adjustments for eligible students.

5. Definitions

5.1 Carer of a person with disability is an individual as defined in the Carer Recognition Act 2010 and includes an individual who provides significant unpaid personal care, support and assistance to another individual who has a disability, medical condition (including a terminal or chronic illness), mental illness, or is frail and aged. For the purposes of this policy, a person is considered a carer when the needs of the person they care for are significant, regular and above what is considered to be general parenting or family duties.

For the purposes of this policy, the term ‘students with disabilities’ should be read to include unpaid carers of people with disabilities.

For the complete definition refer to the Carer Recognition Act.

Students who wish to seek academic adjustments due to their status as a carer must be able to provide satisfactory evidence of their caring responsibilities as outlined in the Students with Disabilities Procedures.

5.2 Disability is a broad term that includes a range of impairments, medical conditions, chronic illnesses and injuries which have an ongoing impact on a person’s daily function or activity, including their capacity to fully access and participate in university life.
This policy incorporates all disabilities as defined within the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 including:

  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Psychiatric
  • Sensory
  • Neurological
  • Learning disabilities
  • Physical disfigurement
  • The presence in the body of disease-causing organisms.

For the complete definition refer to the Disability Discrimination Act.

To be eligible for disability-related academic adjustments and/or funded support services and equipment from the University of South Australia, a student must satisfy the criteria of disability above, as well as demonstrate the functional impact that the disability has on their capacity to study at a tertiary level (refer to the Students with Disabilities Procedures document for further information).

5.3 Discrimination happens when a person, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their background or certain personal characteristics. This is known as ‘direct discrimination’. It is also discrimination when an unreasonable rule or policy applies to everyone but has the effect of disadvantaging some people because of a personal characteristic they share. This is known as ‘indirect discrimination.’

5.4 Partner organisation is an organisation, in conjunction with whom the University offers a program of study or a component of a program of study. The organisation may be onshore or offshore, a private provider, a professional or industry association, a university or a college.

5.5 Reasonable adjustments are measures or adjustments taken by the University which enables a student with disability to participate in their studies on the same basis as a student without a disability. Adjustments are considered reasonable when they balance the interests of all parties affected and do not cause unjustifiable hardship.

5.6 Unjustifiable hardship. In accordance with the DDA, there are a range of factors that need to be considered in determining unjustifiable hardship. These include but are not limited to:

a. the benefits/detriments that might accrue to others including the person with disability;
b. other options/alternatives that could be considered or canvased;
c. the cost and benefits to the University; and
d. the impact on the academic integrity of a course or program.

For further information see the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA).

6. Supporting Procedures

Students with Disabilities Procedures

7. Related Documents/Links

M - 1 Privacy Policy

C-17: Student complaints resolution

Carer Recognition Act 2010

Disability Discrimination Act 1992

Disability Standards for Education 2005

South Australian Equal Opportunity Act 1984

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

University of South Australia Act 1990

University of South Australia Disability Action Plan 2014-2018 

Student Involuntary Medical Leave (in development)

8. Responsibilities

8.1 All staff and students are responsible for adhering to this policy.

8.2 The following roles are responsible for monitoring compliance with this policy:

  • Approval Authority: University Council
  • Officer Responsible: Pro Vice Chancellor: Student Engagement and Equity
  • Commencement Date: 24 March 2020 (Council resolution C-2020/01/04)
  • Review Date: March 2025 in accordance with the UniSA Policy Framework
  • History: This policy supersedes and replaces:

    16 December 1991 (Resolution C-12/91-49.6); Manager: Equal Opportunity July 1998; Revision 3 September 1998 SMG; 11 October 1999, Manager: Equity and Diversity; 18 March 2003 (Resolution C-2003/1/12); Council (Resolution C-2008/6/7)