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    Equality Law Obligations in Higher Education: reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 in assessment of students with unseen disabilities

    Cameron, HE ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1379-9678, Hervey, Tamara, Rostant, Philip, Coleman, Bryan and Rahman, Sabrina (2019) Equality Law Obligations in Higher Education: reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 in assessment of students with unseen disabilities. Legal Studies, 39 (2). pp. 204-229. ISSN 0261-3875

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    Abstract

    8% of UK students have an ‘unseen disability’: a specific learning difficulty, autistic spectrum condition, or mental ill health. A department with 1000 students has, on average, 80 students with such unseen disabilities. These students have a variety of potential sources of legal redress if they consider a university has failed properly to accommodate their disability. The most plausible is a claim under the Equality Act 2010. We have experienced a lack of clarity in understanding the nature and extent of those Equality Act entitlements, and the corresponding obligations that fall upon universities, and their staff. These confusions occur in many contexts, but the one that is most important to students is their entitlements where assessments are concerned. We set out to explain the relevant law, and to consider how it applies to some, perhaps typical, unseen disabilities in the context of a range of approaches taken by universities in assessing their students. Our principal and important conclusion is that there is no ‘quick fix’ approach according to which someone may say that they are Equality Act compliant. However, there are several considerations which will increase (or decrease) the likelihood of compliance. In brief, these constitute effective communication; procedures that secure individual decisions, rather than blanket policies or approaches; and what amounts to no more than good inclusive educational practice for all students.

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