This Article is an Introduction to Legislation
Each Australian state and territory has anti-discrimination or equal opportunity legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a range of protected attributes, including disability (or impairment in some Acts), in protected areas, including education.
There is also federal legislation – the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (‘DDA’) – which sets the benchmark for what is required by schools to avoid disability discrimination. This legislation requires schools to make reasonable adjustments for students with a disability that support them to participate and achieve at school. For the purpose of these laws, diabetes is considered to be a disability.
The Disability Standards for Education 2005 (Cth) are important standards that have been developed under the federal legislative framework and similarly emphasise that education providers are required to make reasonable adjustments.
If a school acts in accordance with the Disability Standards for Education, then the school will also be compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).
This is important as compliance with this federal legislation trumps the operation of state or territory legislation to the extent of any inconsistency between federal law and state/territory laws.
Understanding reasonable adjustments
‘Reasonable adjustments’ is an important term for schools, parents or carers and health professionals to understand so they can all work together to make the school experience safe, positive and rewarding for students with type 1 diabetes. These reasonable adjustments will be detailed in the student’s diabetes management plan and will be different for each student with type 1 diabetes.
Reasonable adjustments are supportive actions that schools adopt to ensure they meet the requirements under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).
Students will have different needs to manage their type 1 diabetes at school. The Disability Standards for Education 2005 outlines a number of key factors that a school should consider when determining what reasonable adjustments are required. This requires balancing the interests of all parties affected and considering all relevant circumstances, including:
- the impact of the student’s disability
- the views of the student or their “associate” (such as a parent or carer), which requires ongoing consultation between the school, the parents or carers, and the student
- the impact of the adjustment on the student’s educational opportunities – which might include, for example, an adjustment enabling a student to partake in school activities or educational opportunities
- the effect of the proposed adjustment on anyone else, such as the educational provider, school staff, or other students
- the cost and affordability of making the adjustment and
- any other relevant circumstances.
The Disability Standards for Education require schools to engage in consultation, so it is important that schools, parents or carers, and students (where appropriate) discuss and agree on the proposed adjustments. Adjustments need to be reasonable for the school, based on all of the circumstances, as well as of benefit to the student.
There is a requirement to engage in consultation embedded within the Disability Standards for Education 2005. It is important that schools, parents or carers, and students (where appropriate) discuss and agree on the proposed adjustments. Parents or carers and the school may have different ideas about what a reasonable adjustment is, so the process of consultation is important to enable all parties to come to an agreement about which adjustments are reasonable for the school to make. Adjustments need to be reasonable for the school, based on all of the circumstances, as well as of benefit to the student. Supporting blood glucose monitoring and administering insulin or supervising its administration at school, can be seen as a supportive action or a reasonable adjustment, which helps a student’s enrolment and participation at school.
Examples of reasonable adjustments might include:
- additional communication between school staff and the student’s parents or carers
- supporting the use of continuous glucose monitors in the school setting, including allowing students to use mobile devices to sync with their continuous glucose monitors
- supporting the use of insulin pump therapy for the administration of insulin
- supervising or administering insulin by way of injection or via pump
- allowing students to access food during class or during other activities
- allowing students access to their medical equipment during class time
- providing additional breaks to allow students to check their blood glucose levels and for the administration of insulin
- allowing the student to have extra toilet breaks
- providing an appropriate area that the student can use to test their blood glucose levels and/or administer their insulin (if they wish to use it); and
- giving extra time or special consideration on exams and assignments.
(This is not an exhaustive list)