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Information for Staff

What can the Disability Service (DS) do for MMU staff?

Advisers can help staff with advice relating to the support of disabled students, including the implementation of Personal Learning Plans (PLPs), the support students may be entitled to under Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) and with any specific queries relating to disabled students. It is not the remit of the DS to support disabled staff; please contact HR for any enquiries related to disabled staff members.

It is hoped that the general advice contained within this page will be read first, as many of the issues commonly raised by staff have been addressed here. This information also provides, where applicable, the legislative framework and MMU policies and procedures informing actions to be taken concerning disabled students and their support.

On occasion, there can be specific concerns about a student that need to be addressed, such as a student who is failing to engage with support, or one who is asking repeatedly for extensions. Please peruse the site to ascertain if your query has been addressed here. If you have a specific query about a student, we are happy to provide advice and support.

Each weekday, 9.00 - 17.00, throughout the academic year, an Adviser is available to take phone, email or personal enquiries from both staff and students: contact details.

All students who have a PLP will be allocated to a named Adviser and it is this person who will co-ordinate the student’s support and manage any on-going issues. For more complex situations it may be useful to hold a case conference, in which case the adviser will suggest this and will liaise with the department to determine which staff are needed to attend.

The Disability Service offers staff training regarding disclosure of disability and Personal Learning Plans. This can be arranged to suit the needs of staff and typically is of 90 minutes duration; we require a minimum of 8 attendees.

Why do I have to consider the needs of a disabled student? Isn't that the role of the Disability Service?

Disabled students have rights entailed in both the Disability Discrimination Act (2005) and the Equality Act (2010). Whilst the earlier legislation relates specifically to disabled people, the later Act includes disabled people as one of several 'protected characteristics' such as gender, sexual orientation and others. Disabled students are protected by this legislation in the way they are admitted and treated in higher education, relating to the activities of teaching, learning and the assessment of achievement, as well as the more general aspects of physical access to buildings and the provision of goods, facilities and services. Disabled students are also protected against direct and indirect discrimination and harassment. The full legislative background is summarised in Section 1 of the MMU Disability Framework

A public sector equality duty is required of HEIs and the university's Single Equality Scheme specifies how it promotes equality and diversity both as an employer and as a provider of education. It is made explicit in this document that: “The responsibility for delivering the equality agenda extends to every member of the organisation including management, those with an explicit remit for diversity and individual staff. The implementation of this scheme is therefore a shared responsibility amongst staff employed by MMU.” (Manchester Metropolitan University Single Equality Scheme December 2010 - 2013).

What is the definition of disability in relation to Higher Education?

The Equality Act (2010) states that a person is disabled if:

  • they have a physical or mental impairment
  • the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to perform normal day-to-day activities

For the purposes of the Act, these words have the following meanings:

  • 'substantial' means more than minor or trivial
  • 'long-term' means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least twelve months (there are special rules covering recurring or fluctuating conditions)
  • 'normal day-to-day activities' include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping or, indeed, learning.

There are additional provisions relating to people with progressive conditions; people with HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis are protected by the Act from the point of diagnosis

Certain conditions are exempt from this definition, examples of which include, inter alia: addiction to any substance, hayfever, tendency to physical or sexual abuse of other persons.
Why is dyslexia classed as a disability?

Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD), the best known of which is dyslexia, are included under the definition of disability, as the institutional requirement that students access information and express their knowledge and understanding of the subject are in forms that are in the areas of their difficulty, which results in their often taking longer to access, process and express this information.

“Dyslexia is a learning difference, a combination of strengths and weaknesses which affects the learning process in reading, spelling, writing and sometimes numeracy. Dyslexic learners may also have accompanying weaknesses in short term memory, sequencing and the speedat which they process information.” (Rose 2009)

Who decides if a student is disabled?

Any student who considers themself to be disabled, or who has some condition they wish to seek support for, can contact the Disability Service, who will advise the student what evidence is required of their condition. Once received, this evidence is checked by an adviser in order to ascertain if it conforms to explicit criteria, which is based on the legal definition. Only if a student is judged to be disabled according to this criteria is the student offered an appointment at which a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) is produced. Students whose evidence does not conform to the criteria are either advised how to obtain further evidence, if necessary, or are referred back to their department and to alternative sources of support within the university, according to their needs.

What support can disabled students expect? What about EU or International students?

The legislation directs that any student who fulfils the criteria for being disabled is entitled to have 'reasonable adjustments' made to ensure they are able to access the entire curriculum, as would any other student i.e. so that they are not disadvantaged.

It is important to stress that these reasonable adjustments are a legal responsibility of the university and, by proxy, its staff.

For the majority of students, including EU and overseas students, these 'reasonable adjustments' are identified within a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) in the form of recommendations.

UK students meeting the relevant eligibility criteria are able to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances. However, this grant is not usually available to EU or overseas students

What support can a disabled student access within the Faculty?

Disabled students can, in common with all students, access the support of Student Support Officers (SSOs) who can, amongst other responsibilities, offer study skills support.

The Writing Project, a ten week study skills course, is open to all students.

The assistive technology programs Inspiration and Read and Write are both available across all MMU computers; the former is mind mapping software and the latter can read electronic text aloud, as well as providing enhanced spell checking facilities. The DS periodically offers training for these programs to which disabled students known to the service are invited via email.

The support of academic and technical staff within the faculty is important and disabled students are encouraged to continue to access this. One to one support, which the student may be able to access via DSA, is not subject specific, nor does it provide technical support for subject specific software and applications.

What is a Personal Learning Plan (PLP)?

The Personal Learning Plan (PLP) contains an outline of the student’s disability (unless they wish this to remain confidential) with a resume of how this impacts on their studies, followed by recommendations that fulfil the legal requirement to make reasonable adjustments. It therefore acts as a guide to academic and other relevant staff as to how that legal responsibility may be fulfilled.

Such recommendations are decided upon by consideration of both the objective evidence contained in the medical evidence or Educational Psychologist report and in discussion with the student. The full process and procedure is contained within Section 2 of the MMU Disability Framework

When referring students to the DS please avoid raising expectations about support that is yet to be defined. Academic staff should not make recommendations for support without the involvement of the DS, as the Advisers work within a rationale framework which informs decisions about specific recommendations; this is to ensure uniformity of the recommendations made.

The recommended support is decided on an individual basis, therefore recommendations for one student may differ from another with a similar condition, for reasons that may not be immediately apparent to outside observers.

What are Disabled Students' Allowances?

Many UK students will be able to access Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA), which is a non-means tested grant intended to fund any costs a disabled student would incur over and above the costs of a non-disabled student, in order to fully access academic activities. Each student’s needs are individually assessed but support might include IT software and hardware, study skills support, an allowance for printing and photocopying, travel expenses and specialist support such as a sign language interpreter.

The PLP indicates when a student has applied for DSA, under the heading “Additional useful information for staff”. If a student reports difficulties with academic work, it may be worth enquiring whether they have accessed the support available to them via DSA.

What do I do if a student discloses a disability to me?

If a student discloses a disability to a member of staff, then from a legal point of view they have disclosed to the university. It is the responsibility of the member of staff to whom the student discloses to follow this up using the agreed procedure. It is important that staff follow this procedure, as it ensures that their legal responsibilities are personally met, as indicated in the MMU Single Equality Scheme, Section 6.

Please note that this procedure should be followed whether or not the student wishes to pursue support.

It can be useful to ask the student if they wish you to contact the DS whilst they are with you. The DS regularly takes enquires in this way; here are our contact details. It is often the case that a student will fail to make contact themselves when left to their own devices, for a variety of reasons, and so offering to be with them at this point can be very helpful in encouraging them to access the available support.
What are my responsibilities with PLPs?

Once a PLP has been written for a student it is sent to the Student Life Office of the Faculty at the same time it is sent to the student (to their MMU email address); it is the responsibility of staff in that office to distribute the PLP according to that Faculty’s practice. The student is advised to expect to be contacted by a member of staff within about 2 weeks of receiving the PLP and that, if they have not, to enquire about their PLP at the Student Life Office.

A member of academic staff and the student should meet to discuss the PLP and how the recommendations will apply for the course of study. For example, the recommendation: 'Instigate a meeting with student to discuss placement needs' evidently needs tutor knowledge of the placement in order to enter into a discussion with the student about what their specific needs might be; the recommendation 'Disability related absences - apply flexibility, subject to course requirements' will require a discussion about what course requirements are in such a situation.

It is important to stress that these reasonable adjustments are a legal responsibility of the university and, by proxy, its staff. The purpose of the PLP is to identify what constitutes reasonable adjustments as required by legislation so that if they are implemented the university is deemed to have fulfilled its legal obligations.

What is a reasonable adjustment when it comes to written assessments and examinations?

The key principles regarding assessment are that the objectives of the programme are met according to the University’s and the programme’s assessment and progression principles and regulations (MMU Assessment Regulations for Taught Programmes). Extensions to deadlines for coursework assignments are to be decided in negotiation between the appropriate academic tutor and the student, as is indicated in the PLP. Current guidance on this process can be found here

A student with a PLP should not be expected to submit an exceptional factors application if the request for the extension is directly related to their disability.

Disabled students' marks or grades for assessments should not be altered because of their disability. However disabled students should be assessed in such a way that they are neither systematically penalised nor systematically advantaged; only those recommendations contained within a PLP are permitted.

It is clearly stated in each PLP that: 'Programme learning outcomes and standards set by professional bodies may override some of the recommendations made in [the] plan.'

Appendix 4 of MMU Assessment Regulations for Taught Programmes contains specific guidance for the academic assessment of disabled students, including the process to be followed when a student considers their performance was inhibited for reasons related to their disability.

I am an Examinations Officer, what do I need to know about PLPs and exam arrangements?

The recommendations for the reasonable adjustments necessary to examination arrangements are clearly and explicitly identified in each student’s PLP; these should be strictly adhered to and any other means of defining adjustments to exam arrangements are not permitted. Full guidance is available in MMU Assessment Regulations for Taught Programmes.

Sometimes a student’s PLP will indicate the need for the services of a Scribe in their exams. Scribes are selected and trained by DS staff, although it is the responsibility of Exams Officers to contact potential scribes to arrange their services. Guidelines are available for Exams Officers, Scribes and Students in which the roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. Here are the links to the Scribe timesheet.

Please note that it is the responsibility of each student to: “Liaise with [the] exams officer over any agreed exam arrangements in good time”. It is often the case that some students present with very short notice asking for changes to such recommendations; in such cases they are always informed that it cannot be guaranteed that these can be implemented due to the short notice period.
What do I need to consider for in class tests?

Any timed class tests will require to have the same recommendation as for formal examinations, but it is the role of the academic tutor to implement these. Again, the student is instructed to liaise with the tutor in good time regarding this.

What happens if a student has a temporary illness or injury?

Around exam time, a number of departments, faculties and individual students contact the Disability Service concerning individuals who have temporary injuries or illnesses and how this might affect their exam arrangements.
Temporary injuries and illnesses do not come under the remit of the Disability Service, as they are not classed as disabilities as defined by law. However it might be that exams arrangements need to be made that are similar to those recommended for disabled students, so that the student with a temporary illness or injury is enabled to take the exam e.g. the use of a scribe or additional time to complete the paper. It is important to note that any costs incurred in the arrangement of exam provision for such students are to be funded by the department itself.

Students who require alternative arrangements due to sudden illness or temporary disability should contact their Head of Department as soon as possible and will be required to submit medical evidence of the illness or injury. Guidance for this eventuality is contained within the Assessment Regulations for Taught Programmes, Appendix 4, Section C, 5.

Please note that updated guidance is currently being developed to help staff decide upon what arrangements may be necessary and will be added to this section shortly. In the meantime, please contact the DS if you are unsure what to arrange for such students.