The main aim of this research proposal is to investigate and evaluate the impact and effect that Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) (1995) has on higher education providers for the purpose of determining to what extent they have been affected by the legislation. If to a medium extent, it will be suggested that education providers must do more in order to meet the needs of disabled students and to ensure that they make greater provision.
The decision to choose this topic for the proposal was because of its importance relating to providing disabled students with increased equality in order to address the gap of inequality that is still present in higher education institutions. This involves analysing and investigating past research, including case study information, primary and secondary sources of information in order to determine whether or not the adjustments made are meeting the needs of disabled students.
According to Sheila Riddell et al. (2002) from the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research, the DDA (1995) Part 4 applies to schools and providers of post-16 education including universities and institutions of Further and Higher Education. The Act makes it unlawful for all educational providers to discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
According to the Disability Rights Commission’s Code of Practice (2003), discrimination against disabled students can occur in two main ways, either by a failure of the organisation to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ for students with disabilities which places them at a substantial disadvantage or from treating an individual ‘less favourably’ for a reason related to their disability. These duties both came into force on 1 September 2002. Since 1 September 2005, education providers have been required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to their premises in order to comply with the legislation.
2.0 Literature Review
2.1 Objective 1
Riddell et al. (2002), in a paper delivered to the ESRC seminar in the University of Bristol, conducted research that evaluated how effective four different higher education providers were in providing reasonable adjustments and other provisions for students with disabilities. This involved an analysis of three universities and one college. The research found that at University 1, despite reasonable adjustments being made for a student of German and social history, the student did not receive enough support due to a lack of resources.
It was found in University 2 that there were weak links of communication between the disability service and teaching staff along with problems that led to students having to negotiate with staff relating to their support requirements. Also in University 2, the reasonable adjustments made for a 3rd year psychology student were unsatisfactory and insufficient support was received through the provision of inadequate resources.
It was found in University 3 that lecturers did not always comply with known disability procedures relating to teaching students with disabilities as it was reported that there were problems with note taking and lecturers not standing in front of a disabled student who needed this adjustment made.
It was reported at College 1 that there were problems with regard to reasonable adjustments made by the college relating to access problems for students entering the building and the car park. The problems of access relating to reasonable adjustments are confirmed by Emily Godson and Graham Farrell of Loughborough University (2005) in their review of disability studies. They reported during an audit of one university that there was discrimination against wheelchair users and many paths into the university did not meet requirements. They also found that only four in 10 entrances to the university had a wheelchair ramp.
According to a report by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) (2001) relating to adjustments made by organisations under Part 3 of the DDA (1995), which for the purposes of this proposal are similar, adjustments being made by organisations were solely being made as part of the overall refurbishment of the premises or because of policy reviews. The report from the DWP also stated that incidences of reasonable adjustments being made were higher in larger organisations (75%). It was also reported that the commonest reason for organisations not making adjustments was because they were not required (54%). It was also reported that the most common adjustment related to wheelchair or disability access to the premises (75%).
According to Mooney (2006) a student consultation questionnaire survey was conducted at the University of Chester which involved feedback from disabled students from eight specific questions. It was found that the adjustments made were not completely satisfactory.
In relation to question 3 regarding access to the university, 40.9% of disabled students reported that access needed to be improved with 24.3% saying it did not need to be improved. In response to question 4 relating to the students obtaining the necessary and appropriate teaching materials in the correct format, 72.2% reported that they found it appropriate and 16.5% disagreed. In relation to question 7 as to whether or not the university needed to improve any area of its services, 7% of students required more parking spaces, especially near to the library, followed by disability guidance, additional lecture notes along with other types of services.
Therefore, this suggests that there is much room for improvement and for additional more appropriate reasonable adjustments to be made to suit individual student needs. It can perhaps be suggested that the adjustments implemented to ensure that there is a greater degree of equality for disabled individuals and to comply with the legislation are being made to a medium extent as opposed to a greater extent.
2.2 Objective 2
According to the DWP (2001), relating to the costs involved for organisations in making reasonable adjustments, it was reported that cost was hardly ever cited as a reason for not making adjustments. They identified from case study research on organisations that only 4% of those not making adjustments actually mentioned costs as a factor. This was further confirmed by Meager et al. (2002) from the DWP in a report on the costs and services to service providers from making reasonable adjustments which found that cost was not seen as a dominant issue. The case study research they conducted found that organisations were sometimes more concerned about the unquantifiable costs of staff and management. However, the DWP found that there were significant variations in cost depending on the type of adjustments required. They found that over half of the organisations reporting had incurred costs, including for hoists, lifts, induction loops, concessions to disabled students and help desks.
The DWP (2001) also identified costs organisations would likely incur such as £300 for replacing external steps with a ramp, £29,000 for fitting an external automatic door, costs of a temporary ramp ranging from £100 to £500. They also suggested that replacing external steps with a ramp would cost anything from £1,000 to £15,000 and the cost of internal automatic doors was put between £5,000 and £8,000.
Therefore, it can perhaps be suggested that the costs associated with higher education providers delivering reasonable adjustments is of significance, but not to a great extent and will depend on the resources already in place in these institutions along with the provisions available from the DSA to help fund students with disabilities.
2.3 Objective 3
The University of Strathclyde (2006), in its Disability Equality Scheme report which involved relevant consultations with staff and disabled students at the university in relation to provisions and reasonable adjustments made for students with disabilities, and from focus group interviews conducted by the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research, found certain problems relating to adjustments made for students. Some of the main problems reported were that staff were under-using the electronic Pegasus system which was intended to outline the adjustments required by disabled students, particularly relating to classroom teaching, examinations and assessments.
It was also reported that there were inaccessibility problems in the following areas: lectures, examinations, assessments, library seminars, practical classes and induction, among other areas. It was further reported through student feedback that those students who were blind or otherwise impaired were on occasion disadvantaged through a lack of sufficient resources in the library and learning services.
Therefore, it seems to be the case that although support systems are in place to improve support for disabled students, more appropriate reasonable adjustments and resources are required to ensure that disabled students are given more equality.
2.4 Objective 4
According to the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) (2005) report entitled ‘How do I make a claim?’ under Part 4 of the DDA (1995), under Scots law, there are certain penalties that can be imposed on higher education providers or individuals for a failure to comply with the legislation. The DRC found that if higher education providers failed to provide reasonable adjustments or treated a disabled person less favourably it could lead to a Civil Action being raised by the disabled student against either the institution or an employee of that institution.
Some of the possible penalties include the award of damages to individuals for ‘hurt to feelings’ or an order of ‘Specific Implement’ – a positive order forcing the responsible party to fulfil its obligations towards the individual being discriminated against. According to the DRC (2005), the minimum amount of compensation available is £750 but can be anything up to £29,000, although so far this has only been awarded following an employment tribunal.
Therefore, it can be seen that there are damaging implications for higher education providers should they fail to comply with the legislation, which includes the possibility of a court action being taken against either the institution or an individual employee of that institution depending on policies already existing within the organisation. It is suggested that education providers especially need to be aware of their duties to comply because of the potential damage to the reputation of the institutions should they fail to comply with the legislation.
For the purposes of this proposal a multi-strategy approach will be taken that combines the use of quantitative and qualitative data in order to meet the four main objectives that will enable the main aim of this proposal to be achieved. This will allow for the triangulation of the results expected from the research that will be undertaken. It will also involve the use of primary and secondary sources of information. According to Bryman and Bell (2006), this provides for a better approach when undertaking research as opposed to just relying on quantitative or qualitative data by itself.
The primary data required will involve the conducting of five interviews with Disability Advisors from two universities and three colleges. All of these interviews will be face-to-face to ensure that more probing and more reliable information can be gathered. It is estimated that it will take two weeks for the conducting and analysis of each of the five interviews.
It will also include the designing of a questionnaire that will be sent to the Disability Advisors of 30 higher education establishments, 10 universities and 20 colleges. These questionnaires will be self-completed using a combination of open and closed questions to obtain the most relevant information. The use of quantitative and qualitative data will facilitate up-to-date data from the information obtained. This methodology will also ensure that the results obtained will be more valid and reliable as opposed to just using secondary data. The costs relating to the sending out of questionnaires should be about £20.
According to Bryman & Bell (2006), the advantages of using self-completion questionnaires as opposed to a structured interview are that it is cheaper to administer, quicker and is very convenient, with no interviewer effects. However, some disadvantages are that there is no probing for answers and there is a difficulty in asking some kinds of questions.
This quantitative and qualitative data that will be obtained through primary research will help to determine the numbers and descriptive information relating to the reasonable adjustments made by higher education providers to ascertain if they are sufficient. It will also provide relevant information relating to the financial and non-financial aspects associated with the costs for organisations regarding making reasonable adjustments. The qualitative data will provide important descriptive information that will make it easier to ascertain the views of students and staff concerning disability matters.
The secondary data that will be used to obtain information relating to the four objectives and main aim of the proposal will rely on previous disability research from authors who have a wide knowledge of the subject. It will also rely on case study research that previous authors have conducted along with the obtaining of relevant documents from the Internet. The secondary data collected will allow for a less expensive approach for research purposes as relevant information can be collected and used without incurring too many costs. It will also save time and money from its easy accessibility and draws on previous authors’ research on the subject matter, which allows for more valid and accurate findings.
4.0 Difficulties and Limitations
As with all research processes there will always be difficulties and limitations relating to obtaining information for research purposes. Some of the potential difficulties of this research involves Disability Advisors having the time and willingness to openly and honestly communicate personal and relevant information during the interviewing process. Although the interviews are spaced out in two-weekly dates, there exists the possibility of the interviewees changing dates of the interview, which will obviously affect my timetable.
Another problem may be that the interviewees may be uncritical of their organisations in relation to whether or not appropriate reasonable adjustments have been made by the institution. They may be reluctant to discuss details of student complaints or issues relating to the costs or lack of resources distributed as provisions for disabled students.
In other words, there may be a lack of objectivity displayed, which would render the process as being unreliable and could easily be invalidated.
Another potential problem will be the potential for biased views and opinions from those working in the organisations being questioned. Therefore, there may be a lack of objectivity, reliability and validity of the findings for those reasons.
Another potential problem may arise from bad planning. It will be necessary to plan effectively and use an appropriate timescale in order to interview employees of the institutions, to obtain and analyse data. In order to deal with this problem, a timetable has been created to allow for better organisation and to ensure that the tasks are written clearly and spaced out efficiently; this will solve the potential problem of bad planning and unplanned circumstances.
A main limitation of this proposal is that all of the interviews that will be conducted are with Disability Advisors to obtain their views and do not include individual interviews with disabled students themselves. Instead, it relies on past research and case study information relating to the views of students, which may not be up-to-date.
Another difficulty involves the use of the postal questionnaire that will be sent to 30 higher educational providers. The main potential problem would be if there was an unsatisfactory return rate that would damage the relevance of the findings. A return rate of 50% would be considered satisfactory and nothing below this for the purposes of this proposal. This is confirmed by Bryman & Bell (2006), who see a 50-60% return rate as barely acceptable, with anything below 50% being seen as unacceptable.
Bryman, A & Bell, E (2006) Business Research Methods, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Department for Work and Pensions (2001) DDA, Access to Goods, Services and Facilities – Regulatory Impact Assessment. The Government’s assessment of the costs and benefits of introducing the later rights in part 3 of the DDA (1995) [Internet] United Kingdom, Available from: >
http://www.dwp.gov.uk/publications/dwp/2001/disdiscrimact/preface.asp :< [Accessed 4 March 2007]
Disability Rights Commission (2004) DDA (1995) part 4: Code of Practice for providers of post 16 education and related services. [Internet] United Kingdom, Available from :
< http://www.drc.org.uk/the_law/legislation-codes-regulation/codes-of-practice.aspx :< [Accessed 7 March 2007]
Disability Rights Commission (2005) How Do I Make a Claim? A Guide to taking a Part 4 Post 16 Case to the Sheriff Court [Internet] United Kingdom, Available from :< http://www.drc.org.uk/uploaded_files/documents/4008_361_Edu19.pdf :< [Accessed 21 March 2007]
Godson, E & Farrell, G (2005) Are Britain’s Higher Education Institutions prepared for prosecution in September 2005 due to the lack of Disabled Access. The Review of Disability Studies, Volume 1, issue 4, 2005, pp.5-13. [Internet] Available from:>
http://www.drc-gb.org/docs/10_756_journal_articles_oct05.doc :< [Accessed 4 March 2007]
Meager, N, Dewson, S, Evans, C, Harper, H, McGeer, P, O’Regan, S & Tackey, ND. (2002) Costs and benefits to service providers of Making Reasonable Adjustments under part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act [Internet] Department for Work and Pensions, DWPRR 169. Available from: >
http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/pubs/report.php?id=1441drc :< [Accessed 10 March 2007]
Mooney, D (2006) Appendix 4 – Student Consultation Report (Questionnaire) [Internet] University of Chester, England. Available from :>
http://www.chester.ac.uk/diversity/disability-app4.pdf :< [Accessed 19 March 2007]
Riddell, S, Tinklin, T. & Wilson, A. (2002) Disabled Students in Higher Education: The impact of anti-discrimination legislation on teaching, learning and assessment. [Internet] University of Glasgow, Scotland. Available from :>
http://escalate.ac.uk/resources/disabledstudentsinhe/22Nova.rtf :< [Accessed 25 March 2007]
University of Strathclyde (2006) University of Strathclyde Disability Equality Scheme 2007-2009 [Internet] Glasgow, Scotland. Available from :>
http://www.strath.ac.uk/media/media_42754_en.doc :< [Accessed 15 March 2007]
6.0 Appendix – Timetable for Proposal
|Task||Description of Tasks||Start- finish date||Days to complete|
|1||Design Questionnaire + Copies||Oct 1 – Oct 4||(3 Days)|
|2||Send out 50 Questionnaires||Oct 15 – Oct 29||(14 Days)|
|3||Conduct Interview 1 + Analyse||Nov 1 – Nov 8||(7 Days)|
|4||Conduct Interview 2 + Analyse||Nov 15 – Nov 22||(7 Days)|
|5||Conduct Interview 3 + Analyse||Dec 1 – Dec 8||(7 Days)|
|6||Conduct Interview 4 + Analyse||Dec 15 – Dec 22||(7 Days)|
|7||Conduct Interview 5 + Analyse||Jan 2 – Jan 9||(7 Days)|
|8||Collate all data together||Jan 15 – Feb 1||(17 Days)|
|9||Write up Research Findings||March 1 – April 1||(31 Days)|