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Disability Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) This policy supports the University's provision of:

  1. an accessible digital and physical, working, learning and social environment that enables and enhances the educational experience of students with disability and the employment experience of staff with disability on the same basis as other members of the University community.
  2. a learning and working environment that values diversity, is free from harassment and unlawful discrimination and promotes equality of opportunity.

(2) Western Sydney University is committed to promoting and implementing the principles of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) as amended 2009, the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (Cth) (the Standards), the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), the Disability (Access to Premises – buildings) Standards 2010 (Cth), the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and the Disability Inclusion Act 2014 (NSW). These legislative provisions make it unlawful for tertiary institutions to discriminate against people, in the provision of educational and employment opportunities, services and facilities, on the basis that they have, or may have, a disability. Current and prospective students and staff with disability must be able to access and participate in education and employment on the same basis as other students and staff.

(3) Western Sydney University recognises its responsibilities under the guidelines of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and associated Regulations and Codes of Practice. The University is committed to ensuring a safe work environment and to ensuring that Work Health and Safety planning and activities also incorporate the requirements of people with disability.

(4) This policy applies to all students and staff of the University. Some areas and positions within the University community have specific responsibilities that are outlined in this policy, the Disability procedures, and the University's Accessibility Action Plan.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(5) For the purposes of this policy the following definitions apply. Note that the definitions of disability, discrimination, associates, reasonable adjustments and unjustifiable hardship are based on the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

  1. Assistive technology is any device, system or design, whether adapted or commercially available, that allows someone to perform a task that they would otherwise be unable to do, or increases the efficiency of performing a task.
  2. Associates include people who are a partner, carer, friend, family member, business/sporting associate or work colleague. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) also makes it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis that their associates have, or may have, a disability.
  3. Carer (within the meaning of the Carer Recognition Act 2010 (Cth)) is a person who provides personal care, support and assistance to another person because of their disability, aged-related needs, a medical condition (including a terminal or chronic illness) or mental illness. This excludes care, support or assistance provided as part of paid or unpaid work, a service provision contract, and/or education or training program. A person is not inherently considered a carer solely on the basis of their family and/or domestic relationship to the person in need of care.
  4. Direct discrimination on the grounds of disability occurs when a person is treated less favorably because of their disability, or not given the same opportunities as others in a similar situation, because of their disability.
  5. Disability is defined very broadly under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) as any physical, sensory, neurological, intellectual, psychiatric or learning disability, and includes physical disfigurement, the presence in the body of disease-causing organisms and total or partial loss of part of the body or a bodily function. It also includes a temporary, permanent, current, past or future disability, and chronic health conditions which may not commonly be considered disabilities.
  6. Accessibility Action Plan is an organisational plan that works to prevent and address discrimination against people with disability. The Accessibility Action Plan identifies actions that the University takes and will take to ensure that education and employment, services, premises and facilities are accessible and non-discriminatory to people with disability.
  7. Harassment on the grounds of disability occurs when someone is made to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated because of their disability.
  8. Indirect discrimination on the grounds of disability occurs when a person with a disability is expected to meet criteria, rules or policy that apply to everyone, but that have an unfair effect on people with disabilities. Examples of indirect discrimination include making the only entrance to premises by stairs, which means the premises are inaccessible to people with mobility disability, or the provision of information in forms that are inaccessible to people with a print disability.
  9. Inherent requirements are the essential components of a job, a program of study or a subject that must be carried out in order to fulfil the purpose of a position or demonstrate the abilities, knowledge and skills needed to achieve the core learning outcomes of a program or subject. They do not refer to all of the requirements of a job or learning outcome. Other non-essential elements may be negotiable and flexible.
  10. On the same basis means providing students and staff with disability access to opportunities and choices comparable to those available to students and staff without disability.
  11. Reasonable adjustments are administrative, environmental or procedural alterations in the learning or employment setting which remove barriers for people with a disability. Reasonable adjustments may provide for varied/differing ways to meet the inherent requirements of a program or job role. The principle of reasonable adjustment covers the entire study/work environment and may include:
    1. modifying premises
    2. modifying or providing equipment
    3. making changes to job design, work schedules or other work practices in ways that do not compromise performance of the inherent requirements of the position
    4. providing information in appropriate formats and
    5. changing delivery of program of study, assessment procedures or examination arrangements in ways that do not compromise the requirement to demonstrate essential skills or knowledge
  12. An adjustment is a reasonable adjustment unless it would impose an unjustifiable hardship (Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)). At Western Sydney University, reasonable adjustments are documented in the form of an Academic Reasonable Adjustment Plan (ARAP) and/or a Placement Reasonable Adjustment Plan (PRAP) for students, and a Workplace Reasonable Adjustment Plan (RAP) for staff.
  13. Staff Workplace Adjustment Fund is a centralised University fund designed to meet the non-salary costs of the implementation of Workplace Reasonable Adjustment Plans for staff. It funds the adjustments required by staff with disability to undertake their duties. The fund is designed to meet non-salary adjustment costs to reduce any financial impact to employing units, and is administered by Work Health, Safety and Wellbeing.
  14. Universal design is the design of products and environments that are accessible to and usable by the broadest diversity of people possible without the need for adaptation or specialised design.
  15. Unjustifiable hardship is an exception allowing an organisation to decline making an adjustment because the cost and/or impact on the organisation and/or any person affected would be too great. In determining whether an adjustment would involve unjustifiable hardship, all relevant circumstances of the situation must be taken into account. The organisation must prove that an adjustment would cause it unjustifiable hardship, taking into account:
    1. the benefits or disadvantages that would be caused by making the reasonable adjustment
    2. the effect of the disability on the student or staff member
    3. the costs of making the reasonable adjustment in the context of the organisation's financial situation and
    4. the availability of financial and other assistance to the organisation.
  16. Unlawful discrimination is defined as:
    1. treating or proposing to treat a person with disability less favourably than a person without disability in circumstances that are the same or not materially different (the circumstances cannot be considered materially different because of the fact that different accommodation or services may be required by the person with disability)
    2. requiring a person with disability to comply with a requirement or condition with which they are unable to comply because of their disability which is not reasonable in the circumstances and is likely to have an effect of disadvantaging the person with disability or
    3. treating a person with disability less favourably because they are accompanied by or possess a palliative or therapeutic device or an auxiliary aid, or an interpreter, assistant, carer or an assistance animal (e.g. a guide or hearing dog).
  17. Victimisation refers to threatening or less favourable treatment of a person or people for their participation in making, supporting or resolving a complaint, whether that participation was actual, intended or presumed.
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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(6) Western Sydney University is committed to developing and supporting an inclusive, accessible and diverse environment which strongly supports the right of people with disability to study and work on an equitable basis with other members of the University community.

(7) The University is committed to ensuring that the principles of equal access, participation and opportunity for people with disability is integrated into University policies, procedures, decisions and operations. The University has a range of policies, services and programs to enable students and staff with disability to fully participate in University life and realise their academic or employment potential.

(8) The University will support and foster positive and informed behaviour, attitudes and language by students and staff in relation to disability and people with disability. The University will assist staff to develop the disability confidence skills to help meet the learning and support needs of students and staff with disability. 

(9) The University, its students and staff are required to comply with the provisions and intentions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), relevant Commonwealth and State anti-discrimination legislation and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards).

(10) This policy should be read in conjunction with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005, and aims to give full effect to the objectives of the relevant legislation outlined at Clause (2). Harassment, discrimination and victimisation of people with disability is not tolerated and the University expects that all students and staff will work together in the spirit of the legislation.

(11) The University's Accessibility Action Plan, prepared in accordance with Section 61 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), outlines its strategic priorities, objectives and actions in support of continuous commitment to inclusive practice for all students and staff with disability. Responsible functional areas of the University are required to report regularly against the objectives of the Accessibility Action Plan.

(12) The University acknowledges that information provided to it about a person's disability or health status is personal and private.  This information will be managed in accordance with the University's Privacy Policy and Privacy Management Plan.

Equity in Student Admission

(13) Applicants with a disability must meet the academic entry requirements which apply to all students enrolling in the same program. Students with disability will also be able to apply for admission under the range of Special Admission Schemes available, which consider disadvantage that students may have experienced in meeting the usual academic requirements.

(14) Students must have the academic and functional ability to complete the chosen program of study and meet the inherent requirements of the program, subject to the provision of any reasonable adjustments and support services required to mitigate barriers to access and inclusion.

(15) All students are required to familiarise themselves with the inherent requirements of a program of study and the eligibility criteria for registration with professional registration boards before enrolling in a program.

Equity in Staff Selection and Conditions of Employment

(16) People with disability will be encouraged to apply for positions at the University. All recruitment and selection processes will be inclusive of the requirements of people with disability. This includes processes such as advertising, job design, interviewing and medical assessments.

(17) People with disability will have the same terms and conditions by which employment is offered to people without disability.

(18) Staff with disability will have equal opportunities for and access to employment opportunities, professional development, promotion and career development. The University will provide appropriate assistance for staff with disability to attend University approved work activities such as staff training, study and conferences.

Accessible Study and Work Environments

(19) The University embraces the principle of universal design in its planning and design of the study and work environment including facilities and buildings, digital environments, services, work roles and tasks, curricula development and program/study requirements.

(20) The University will provide resources for appropriately accessible and supportive learning and working environments, including assistive technologies.

(21) The University seeks to apply the principle of reasonable adjustment to address barriers to participation in study or work by people with disability, and to carers of people with disability.

(22) The University will provide students and staff with disability with appropriate and reasonable adjustments, to enable:

  1. access to and participation in all aspects of the learning and working environment on the same basis as other students and staff
  2. them to meet the inherent requirements of their program of study or position

(23) Students and staff must be able to meet the inherent requirements of their program of study, subject or position.

(24) Reasonable adjustments provided in the learning environment must not lessen the academic integrity and standards of programs of study offered.

(25) A student or staff member with disability who does not require reasonable adjustments is not obliged to disclose their disability to the University. A student or staff member with disability who requires reasonable adjustments should disclose their need for the adjustment to the University as soon as possible by contacting the Disability Service (for students) or Work Health, Safety and Wellbeing (for staff).

(26) The University is committed to ensuring that all University buildings and facilities are accessible to students, staff and the wider community. The University will achieve this through:

  1. an ongoing program of student/staff consultation, review and improvements to the physical access of existing buildings and facilities
  2. ensuring that new buildings are accessible, meet the identified needs of students and staff, are compliant with the most current version of the Access to Premises Standards, The Building Code of Australia, and are consistent with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

(27) The University is committed to ensuring accessibility of digital study and work environments.  The University will achieve this through an ongoing program of review and improvements of online content, software, systems and programs to ensure compliance with the most current version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and with the needs of students and staff with disability accessing digital environments.

(28) The University is committed to including  accessibility requirements in the procurement process used in the purchase of goods and services.

Staff Responsibilities

(29) All staff are required to take responsibility to provide equity for students and other staff members with disability and to undertake their duties in a non-discriminatory manner. In addition, some roles or work units may hold additional responsibilities in the provision of advice, specialist support and services to students and staff with disability.

(30) Staff:

  1. are expected to undertake development activities and training to gain knowledge, skills and awareness of disability issues and the needs of students and staff with disability
  2. who are Managers and Academic Supervisors will ensure that people with disability are not discriminated against or harassed in work or learning environments
  3. will assist in the implementation of Academic Reasonable Adjustment Plans, Placement Reasonable Adjustment Plans and Workplace Reasonable Adjustment Plans and provide equal access in all areas of employment and teaching/learning
  4. will implement all the reasonable adjustments stipulated in the Academic Reasonable Adjustment Plan, the Placement Reasonable Adjustment Plan and the Workplace Reasonable Adjustment Plan for students and staff with disability
  5. are responsible for encouraging students and staff to discuss issues arising from the impact of their disability on their studies or work with the appropriate team within the University and
  6. must have due regard for each person's right to privacy and confidentiality when seeking information for the purpose of assessing and/or implementing reasonable adjustments

Budget Allocation

(31) The University will, as part of its cyclic budget process, determine an appropriate allocation of funding to resource disability support services to students and staff and continue to make available centralised funds (Staff Workplace Adjustment Fund ans Student Disability Adjustment Fund) for the implementation of student and staff reasonable adjustments in line with the University's obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

(32) Funding of adjustments for activities that are additional to the core components of a student or staff member’s program of study or work role or the usual activities associated with the learning/work environment will require consideration on a case by case basis.

(33) The University will determine an appropriate allocation of funding to resource new and ongoing alterations to buildings, grounds and facilities to maintain contemporary standards of accessibility across campuses.

(34) The University will determine an appropriate allocation of funding to resource the continuous development of accessibility within digital study and work environments to meet current best practice.

University Partners

(35) Autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies associated with Western Sydney University such as student accommodation, early learning centres and food outlets will be required to ensure continuous improvement in the area of accessibility. In addition to service providers developing strategies of their own, Western Sydney University will also work with stakeholders and service providers to identify strategies for improvement as part of development of the University's Accessibility Action Plan.


(36) Students and staff who believe they have been treated unfairly on the grounds of disability are encouraged to make contact with Equity, Diversity and Wellbeing (students and staff), the Disability Service (students), Work Health, Safety and Wellbeing (staff) and/or to use the University procedures outlined in the Complaint Management Policy. Western Sydney University is committed to accessible, fair and confidential processes for the resolution of complaints based on allegations of discrimination on the grounds of disability.

(37) Complaints may also be made externally to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the NSW Anti-Discrimintion Board or to the Federal Fair Work Ombudsman.

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Section 4 - Procedures

(38) Nil.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(39) For further guidance on issues relating to the implementation of this policy, please refer to the Disability Service Web Page, the Work Health Safety and Wellbeing webpage, the Equity and Diversity web page, the Flexibility at Western toolkit, the Academic Staff Agreement 2022 and the Professional Staff Agreement 2022.