Disclosure is a dilemma most students with a disability face. Many people believe that the number of students with a disability in TAFE may be somewhat higher than the official statistics suggest because students may be reluctant to disclose their condition fearing that others may treat them differently or see the illness/condition rather than the individual.
Community acceptance and awareness of disability is improving and TAFE Institutes are generally committed to promoting an environment where diversity and difference are both valued and respected. Many institutions have established Disability Action Plans in which specific targets have been set to increase participation rates of people with a disability in their courses and also to address issues such as improving physical access to buildings and support services for students with a disability.
In a TAFE environment, confidentiality is taken very seriously and TAFE staff should inform students if they are planning to inform anyone about their disability. For example, the Disability Liaison Unit (DLU) may inform the student’s faculty or department to ensure that they are eligible for alternate exam arrangements. By registering with the DLU, students can ensure that the exact nature of their individual needs is kept confidential, but that they are still able to receive appropriate accommodations.
It is important to realise that students are not in any way obliged to disclose their disability. However, if they choose not to do so, the staff of the TAFE will not be able to meet the individual’s specific needs. It is also important for students to think about what they want to achieve by disclosing, and who they want to disclose their disability to.
Most TAFE Institutes ask a disability related question on their enrolment forms. This information is used to assist with appropriate planning and budgeting for the supports needed to assist students with a disability throughout their course. Statistics are sent to the relevant Government bodies, but individuals are not identified as having a disability in any of the TAFE administrative functions.
Disability Liaison Unit (DLU)
To register with the DLU, students are required to provide current documentation from a relevant health professional to substantiate their disability. At the DLU students can control who is contacted and what they are contacted about. The DLU can liaise on behalf of the individual with staff across the TAFE to ensure that appropriate academic adjustments are implemented.
Disclosure with the DLU may enable students to apply for alternative exam arrangements and can be useful to help plan for and manage situations that may impact on their learning and studies. For more information on the DLU click here.
Students can at any time disclose the nature and impact of their disability with individual teaching staff. TAFE staff members are generally very responsive to the needs of students with a disability and will provide what assistance they can. It is important to note that most accommodations cannot be implemented without medical documentation and some cannot be implemented without first being registered with the DLU.
Counselling staff are available to discuss any issue that may be of concern to students with a disability. All consultations with counsellors are confidential. Counsellors may provide some liaison with academic staff but will generally refer students to the DLU for a full range of services.
For further information on disclosure, refer to Choosing Your Path. Disclosure: It’s A Personal Decision.