Student Disabilities: Reasonable Adjustments in Education.

Reviewing the types of support available to students who have a disability, and the process to request these.


Ahead of the module websites opening this weekend, some students may feel a level of trepidation regarding their ability to tackle their studies, particularly if they are moving from one level to another, or if starting post-graduate studies. 

For some students however, there may be an increased sense of anxiety arising from their experience of disability and concerns over how this may impact upon their studies. 

To mitigate this, students have access to structural supports designed to offer parity to those experiencing, or who may otherwise experience, disadvantage in education, termed ‘Reasonable Adjustments’ (RA’s). 

While anyone can ask for these, those classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 have a right enshrined in law to request these. To be classed as disabled, a person must have “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term impact on [their] ability to do normal everyday activities” .  Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

Potential adjustments to educational provision are weighed against a number of criteria, these being; how your disability affects you, the practicality of the proposed changes, whether they would mitigate disadvantage, organisational size, and envisioned cost of meeting these changes, to name a few.

Citizens Advice indicate three forms of adjustments  Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people – Citizens Advice

1. A change to the way things are done

2. A change to a physical feature

3. Provision of extra aids or features

At the Open University, most RA’s are likely to fall under the third category. Examples of these could comprise of alternative formats of tutorials or course material, speech to text video capturing, advance sight of slides, or access to mentoring support. 

Disability Rights UK has a comprehensive list of suggested RA’s covering a range of different disabilities, which can be found here Adjustments for disabled students | Disability Rights UK

Students who feel that RA’s may help support them in their studies may wish to contact their tutor, or their student support team, to initially identify potential areas of need. While tutors can offer academically-based guidance, student support are best placed to advise on assessment adjustments. For more specialist support, students could be entitled to a grant in the form of a Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). Unlike regular student finance, this does not need to be paid back and more information is available here Help if you’re a student with a learning difficulty, health problem or disability – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The Open University prides itself on making study as accessible as possible. Further information detailing the support the Open University offer to its students can be found via the help centre Adjustments and support available through the OU and DSA | Help Centre | The Open University

Although the Open University method of study is one done at a distance, the sense of community that is fostered here is one of belonging, inclusivity, and togetherness. The Open University offers a route to education for all. Don’t be afraid to reach out. We are one #OUFamily 


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Tracy Smith

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