QMU Disability Policy

Queen Margaret University Disability Policy 

1.0 Statement of Intent 

Queen Margaret University (identified throughout this document as the University) is committed to equality of opportunity for disabled staff and students and aims to create an environment which enables them to participate fully in University life.

The University is determined that its responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 will be enacted in a way that promotes the independence of disabled students and staff, and tackles and eliminates discrimination against such individuals. The University is guided by Chapter B4 of the Quality Assurance Agency’s UK Code of Practice for Higher Education which promotes enabling student development and achievement and enhancing the future employability of students.

This Policy applies to any present or potential student or staff member who has additional needs arising from a disability. This Policy also extends to members of the public using the University’s premises. For the purposes of this Policy, disability is understood to cover specific learning difficulties and physical or mental impairments. The University gives cognisance to the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010:-

A person is considered disabled where they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities. In this regard, substantial means more than trivial and long term means twelve months or more.

QMU supports a mainstreaming approach to disability, often referred to as the ‘social model of disability’. This model recognises that the disadvantages and social exclusion experienced by many disabled people are not the inevitable result of their impairments or medical conditions, but rather stem from attitudinal and environmental barriers which discriminate against disabled people and limit their life chances.

The aims of this Policy are to ensure that:

  • All staff and students engage in developing an inclusive environment within the University.
  • Information about disability provision at the University is accessible to all applicants, students, staff, and the public.
  • Application for admission to the University is assessed on the basis of the applicant’s academic aptitudes, abilities and qualifications.
  • Learning, teaching and assessment strategies are employed so that curricula is as inclusive as reasonably possible.
  • The needs of disabled students and staff, as identified through consultation, are included in the process of strategic planning and resource allocation.
  • Disabled students and staff have access to appropriate support and the University seeks, where possible, to make reasonable adjustments that enable them to participate as fully as possible in the life of the University.
  • The views of individual students and members of staff are taken into account at all times when their requirements are being assessed.
  • Members of staff working with disabled students or colleagues with a disability have appropriate information and support.
  • Disabled staff have equal access to staff development opportunities.
  • Disabled members of the public can participate in public events held on University premises.
  • As far as is reasonably practicable and within the constraints of existing buildings and available resources the University premises are accessible and safe for disabled people.
  • Information relating to disabled students and staff is held in a confidential manner consistent with the University Data Protection Policy and Guidelines.

2 The University’s Equality Scheme and Outcomes

The Equality Scheme for the University, together with the Equality Scheme Action Plan, is designed to comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act was passed into law in 2010, with the majority its provisions coming into effect on 1st April 2011. It was introduced to provide a cross-cutting equality legislative framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. It aims to update, simplify and strengthen previous legislation and deliver a framework of discrimination law that promotes a fair and more equal society. The Act combined the three existing equality duties (race, gender and disability) and strengthened protection against discrimination in the areas of sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment.

As was the case with the legislation it replaced, the Act has two parts; namely the General Duty and Specific Duties.

The General Duty remains largely as before, and can be summarised as requiring public authorities to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination;
  • advance equality of opportunity; and
  • foster good relations across protected characteristics.
  • As part of this General Duty, and in relation to disability, the University will:
    • promote equality of opportunity for all;
    • eliminate discrimination that is unlawful and eliminate disability related harassment;
    • promote positive attitudes towards disabled people;
    • encourage participation by disabled people in public life; and
    • take steps to meet disabled people’s needs.

The development of the Equality Scheme and the Equality Action Plan is coordinated by the Equality and Diversity Committee (see below). The University’s Equality Scheme can be found at:Equality and Diversity web page

3 Responsibilities and Implementation

The implementation of this Policy is the responsibility of the University and all staff, students and the public, where applicable. All staff and students have a personal responsibility to adhere to and apply this Policy in their dealings with others, both internal and external to the University.

The University expects all staff and students to be aware of this Policy and the related legislation, and to treat disabled people, whether students, staff or members of the public, fairly, with respect and in accordance with this Policy.

This Policy is ultimately the responsibility of the University Court and the Senate, led by the Principal.

3.1 University Court

The University Court is the ‘responsible body’ legally, and is liable for the actions of the institution as a whole. The Court is responsible for the actions of individual employees of the institution in the course of their employment, whether they are in full-time, part-time or temporary employment. Individuals may also be held personally responsible if they knowingly discriminate against a disabled applicant, student, employee or member of the public.

3.2 Senate

The Senate is responsible for maintaining the academic standards of the University, in particular, its functions relating to the academic work of the University and any functions incidental or ancillary thereto. Implementation of the University’s Disability Policy is delegated to the Senate, under the convenership of the Principal.

3.3 Equality and Diversity Committee (EDC)

The purpose and function of the EDC is to set the strategic framework for equality in service provision and in employment across the University, and to promote equality of opportunity and respect for diversity in all aspects of the University’s business. Its remit includes reviewing policy and procedures affecting disabled staff and students. The EDC advises the Senior Management Team, the Executive Board and the University Court on the implementation of all aspects of the University’s Disability Policy.

3.4 Deans of School / Heads of Support Departments

Deans of School and Heads of Support Departments are representatives of the University Court in ensuring that disabled students and staff are not treated less favourably in comparison to others in the University.

Deans of School are responsible for the final determination of Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) for disabled students and for facilitating reasonable adjustments for students within the Schools, in consultation with other responsible individuals in the relevant departments. Acting on advice received from subject area, Academic Disabled Student Co-ordinators and the Disability Service, Deans of School will be responsible for ensuring that the strategies incorporated within individual ILPs are acted upon by module coordinators.

Heads of support departments are likewise responsible for ensuring that, within their departments, disabled staff and students are not treated less favourably in comparison to others in the University.

4 General Principles

The University believes that a properly implemented and monitored policy on disability is in the best interests of its students and staff. The University will encourage students, the Students’ Union and all academic and administrative departments to produce ideas and plans for improving access, support and services for students and staff with disabilities, both in the short term and in the long term. The University will provide information and training to increase awareness among staff and students of this Policy and of disability issues and requirements.

5 Students and applicants

5.1 General

The University will agree procedures and practices to ensure that disabled students are treated fairly. It will make reasonable adjustments to support students in their learning environment and, so far as is reasonable, remove or reduce barriers which prevent disabled students from successful participation in all aspects of University life.

Potential students will be given sufficient information about the University and academic programmes to enable them to make an informed decision about whether they could undertake a programme of study at QMU. This should include clear information about programme outcomes, learning and teaching approaches, assessment, professional requirements and student support. Potential students with a disability are advised to visit the Scottish Government links below. These give information on helping disabled students meet the costs of learning and support: Scots gov - cost of learning 

5.2 Student Admissions

The criteria for admission to particular courses of study will be made explicit to all applicants. The University will ensure that such criteria do not create unnecessary barriers to disabled applicants. Each subject areas has a designated member of staff as their Academic Disabled Student Coordinator (ADSC) with whom disabled students may discuss course curricula, and the teaching and learning activities, to ensure that any learning support and other needs are clearly identified. Course descriptions will include information on the ADSCs.

5.3 Disclosure

Disabled students are strongly encouraged to inform the University of any disability they may have, and to discuss their requirements with a member of the Disability Service staff as early as possible. If a student discloses a disability to any other member of the University’s staff, the University is deemed to know of that student’s disability. However, unless the student then contacts the Disability Service to discuss their needs, the University may not be able to put in place all of the required support. If the student is a Scottish, English, Welsh or Irish student, neither the student nor the University will be able to access any relevant funding to procure the necessary support workers or equipment, unless the Disability Service is involved and DSA application is made.

To secure the best possible support, a disabled student, regardless of their country of origin, must work with the Disability Service and their Academic Disabled Student Coordinator (ADSC) for their subject to set in place the relevant reasonable adjustments and an Individual Learning Plan tailored to their needs.

It is the student’s responsibility to disclose their disability and to discuss, agree and take up the support offered by the University, including, if appropriate, applying for the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) or its equivalent.

It is the University’s responsibility, once the student has disclosed, to ensure that both the Disability Service and the ADSC work with the student, to put in place relevant reasonable adjustments and an Individual Learning Plan.

5.4 Curriculum

Teachability: Creating an Accessible Curriculum for Students with Disabilities (SHEFC, 2000) has been adopted by the University and is used to scrutinise programmes in respect of equality and disability.

The University endeavours to ensure that courses (including placements and other specialist learning environments) are organised and delivered in ways that offer the best possible opportunities for full participation by all students, including disabled students. A student who has disclosed a disability will be provided with an Individual Learning Plan (ILP), which guides Programme Teams in making any necessary teaching and/or assessment arrangements. This mechanism should also be used to enable disabled students to discuss any emerging needs and identify appropriate courses of action to address those needs.

A reasonable adjustment would be any action that helps to alleviate a substantial disadvantage. It might for example involve:

  • changing institutional procedures, such as the recruitment and selection process or adapting the curriculum, while maintaining standards;
  • providing additional support, such as a proofreader (see Appendix 1), a scribe, or a sign language interpreter;
  • training staff to work with disabled people and to provide appropriate adjustments;
  • altering the physical environment.

5.5 Support for disabled students on practice/work placements: Information for students and placement providers

The University regards the accessibility of its curriculum for all students as a crucial aspect of academic quality. For this reason the University has assigned responsibility for promoting and monitoring curriculum accessibility to its key committees. (see section 3: Implementation and Responsibilities)

Individual Learning Plans (ILPs)
All support given to students following disclosure of a disability is recommended at a needs/ entitlement assessment carried out by the Needs Assessment Centres, either within or external to the University and its Disability Service. This is a prerequisite to receiving any additional support or allowance. If a student has disclosed a disability, his/her individual support needs should be addressed in the Individual Learning Plan which should be put in place as soon as possible and in any case prior to attending a placement. The Individual Learning Plan will detail the fullest reasonable adjustments that may be accommodated by the Programme Team, on consultation with the Academic Disabled Student Coordinator for that area. All reasonable adjustments must be practicable in the learning environment applicable to the programme.

It is good practice to have discussions about the student’s Individual Learning Plan with the higher education institution, placement provider and student prior to any placement commencing. A pre placement visit is recommended to discuss the student’s support needs and the reasonable adjustments required. Reasonable adjustments for the placement will be context dependent and should support the achievement of professional competencies (as may be set out by the relevant regulating body). Students should be informed of changes to their ILP that may be required in the placement environment. Students should be encouraged to develop strategies throughout their period of registration that will assist them to meet these competencies on completion of their programme and to help them gain employment in their chosen field.

In relation to placements, the reasonable adjustments recommended will depend on the placement provider’s ability to implement such adjustments, having regard to the student’s needs and the provider’s duty of care to the public.

5.6 Examinations and Assessment

Appropriate modes of examination and assessment will be determined, after consultation with the student and relevant staff and the provision of relevant evidence, to enable students to demonstrate that they have met the criteria for progression or the conferment of an award. The purpose of any special arrangement is to compensate for any restriction imposed by the disability without compromising academic standards.

For clarity, it is emphasised that no compensation will be applied to standards of assessment, only to the arrangements for the method of assessment. Any request for special arrangements, outside those that have already been agreed, in relation to examination and assessment procedures must be supported by medical or other evidence and it is the student’s responsibility to make that available to the University.

5.7 Access to courses with a professional qualification

All subject areas offering courses which are associated with a professional qualification welcome applications from disabled students. Each professional area has developed guidelines for prospective students. The following websites have excellent information on careers and studying for health related occupations:

 NHS Careers 

Nursing & Midwifery Council 

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC)

Potential students are strongly advised to contact the Disability Service as early as possible to discuss their requirements. Doing this at the application stage, or before, allows both the student and the University to agree, at the earliest opportunity, what support would be needed in order for them to study at QMU and whether the facilities and services available would meet their needs.

Given the legislation and our commitment to offering academic opportunity to all suitably qualified applicants, whenever possible, and irrespective of disability, there are only a few instances in which a disabled applicant who meets the entry criteria may be rejected:

  • When overriding health and safety hazards cannot be overcome
  • When barriers caused by professional requirements and/or by regulations of professional bodies preclude membership by people with specific disabilities. In these circumstances, a Fitness to Practise Panel may be required to determine whether a student may be admitted to the programme. Being admitted to a programme which is regulated does not guarantee access to the chosen profession.
  • When essential reasonable adjustments cannot be made to the course content and the course’s structure of delivery or to the provision of suitable staff or facilities.

No academically qualified applicant who has, where required, satisfied an admissions interview panel or selector of their suitability in terms of motivation and commitment to the field of study will be refused a place on disability-related grounds before an opportunity has been given for full consideration of the specific support or facilities required, in consultation with the University's Disability Service.

If a suitably qualified disabled applicant is rejected solely on grounds of their disability, a record of the decision and the reasons for it will be kept. To facilitate an alternative choice of course and/or institution, the University will provide feedback to the applicant, UCAS or other relevant body.

5.8 Students who become disabled during their studies

The University will take all appropriate steps to ensure that a student who becomes disabled during the course of their studies has every opportunity to complete their course. This will be achieved through the provision of the same level of adaptations and support as a comparable student who was disabled at the start of their course and/or through flexible interpretation of degree regulations, within the constraints of maintaining due academic standards. As above, Fitness to Practise considerations may also need to be taken into account.

6 Other useful support services

6.1 Disabled Student Coordinators in departments

Academic Disabled Student Coordinator (ADSC) in Subject Areas

The role of the Academic Disabled Student Coordinator (ADSC) is key to the implementation of QMU’s strategy in relation to the provision of effective support to disabled students. Acting as the key contact for disabled students within the department, the role includes the provision of support, information and guidance to students from initial enquiry through to graduation. The Academic Disabled Student Coordinator also plays a key role in disseminating information and acting as an initial reference point for colleagues within their academic department. When required and when consent has been obtained from the student, ADSCs are told the nature of the student’s disability.

Disabled Student Coordinators (DSCs) in other Support Departments

Each support department has a Disabled Student Coordinator who can help/advise students in matters related to their areas of professional expertise.

6.2 Disability Service

The Disability Service is responsible for:

  • Providing a service to individual students that includes: one-to-one interviews, determining support needs, providing assessments, coordinating specialist support provision and equipment, helping students apply for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) or other sources of additional funding.
  • Providing information and advice relating to support for disabled students to staff in academic and other departments throughout the University
  • Working with the HR department to advise and organise staff training and development in relation to disability issues.
  • Assisting and advising on the development of policy and provision for disabled students in conjunction with the Equality and Diversity Committee
  • Promoting positive attitudes to disabled people through staff training and development in conjunction with the Centre for Academic Practice.
  • Ensuring the provision of information on disability support through a range of publications, available in various formats.

Information can be found on the Disability Service website

6.3 Student Services

Student Services offers not only the Disability Service, but also the following range of support services to students: the Careers and Student Employment Service, Student Funding advice, Student Counselling and Health Care information.

6.4 Transition & Pre-entry Guidance Advice, together with QMAdvance, QMConnect, & QMMentorNet

The Transition & Pre-entry Guidance Adviser, in conjunction with the Effective Learning Adviser, Disability Service and academic staff, organises and delivers QMAdvance, a bridging programme for a wide range of new students, including disabled students, who are encouraged to participate in this programme. Programme materials are developed so that they can be available in a variety of modes and formats. Students participating, or wishing to participate in ‘bridging and linking’ programmes are encouraged to raise disability issues and be informed about the options available for adapting of premises and materials, as well as provision of personal support.

Further sources of support are QMConnect, the peer mentor programme that offers all first year and direct entrant students a mentor who will help them to settle into university life, and MentorNet, a secure student led online community open to selected students at the pre-entry stage. Information on these support systems can be found at: QMU Mature Students website

6.5 Effective Learning Service

The Effective Learning Service is part of the Centre for Academic Practice and provides learning support and guidance to students, including English language support for international students. The Effective Learning Service will ensure that the venues it uses are accessible to students with disabilities, and are able to be adapted to meet different needs, e.g. hearing loop. The Effective Learning Service works with the Disability Service and the Academic Disabled Student Coordinators to ensure adjustments are anticipated and in place prior to a student taking part in its provision. Students are encouraged to raise disability and access issues in initial discussions with the Effective Learning Adviser so that adjustments can be made.

Appropriate information regarding accessibility of the Effective Learning Service will be available to all members of academic departments, particularly admissions tutors and disability co-ordinators so that the right information can be provided for students.

Study skills programmes and materials

All materials and workshops can be made available in a range of different modes and formats to meet the needs of disabled students, and one-to-one support can be provided for a disabled student to ensure full participation in any study skill workshop or discussion.

Student feedback regarding the experience of disabled students and provision of disabled student access in the Effective Learning Service will be monitored to evaluate effectiveness. This evaluation will contribute to the development of such provision.

Staff and students helping to develop the Effective Learning Service will receive training to raise awareness and skill in anticipating and providing appropriate support for disabled students.

The Effective Learning Service will liaise with Student Services staff to keep them informed and updated on any developments in the Effective Learning Service regarding accessibility for disabled students and to ensure the effectiveness of referrals to Student Services: QMU Effective Learning Services 

7 Staff of the University

The University has been awarded the "Disability Two Ticks Symbol" in recognition of its commitment to positively promote the employment of disabled people.

7.1 Applications for employment

Under the Two Ticks Guaranteed Interview Scheme, any disabled applicant who meets all the published essential criteria for a post will be guaranteed an interview.

Applications for employment from potential employees who have a disability will be considered against the same criteria for the post as applications from those employees who are not disabled. Discussions about any support requirements will be possible at all stages of the application.
The University will make available, on request, information regarding support facilities and physical access to and within buildings on any of its campuses, at all stages of the application process.

7.2 Applicants and existing employees

Where the working arrangements or physical features of premises place a disabled applicant or employee at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with an applicant or employee who is not disabled, the University will make reasonable adjustments within available resources to help overcome the practical effects of the individual’s disability in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

Where an adjustment is deemed not to be reasonable, such a decision by the University must first be confirmed by the Head of Human Resources. When requested, the University will give feedback to the applicant or their representative.

7.3 Appraisal and training opportunities

All employees will be included in the University’s Performance Enhancement Review (PER) process. If an employee is disabled, account will be taken of the individual’s capacity to perform the full extent of the duties required and the achievement of objectives set will be measured against the level considered achievable by that individual.

The HR department, working with the Disability Service, offer support to disabled staff and provide to all staff access to information, specialist advice, guidance and training aimed at supporting them in their work with students and other staff members who have disabilities. Information will be kept updated and ongoing, and be available electronically and through staff induction and staff development opportunities. Access to training opportunities will be provided on the same basis for disabled staff as for any other member of staff. The University will make all reasonable adjustments in accordance with relevant legislation, and within available resources to ensure that a person’s disability does not place them at a disadvantage.

7.4 Staff who are or become disabled

The University will take all reasonable steps to ensure that a member of staff who is or becomes disabled or whose disability increases during the course of their employment are, where reasonably practicable, given every opportunity to remain in their existing job. As outlined in paragraph 6.3 above the University will make reasonable adjustments within available resources to help overcome the practical effects of the disability in accordance with the legislative requirements and in accordance with the provisions of the Retention Statement incorporated in the University’s Sickness Absence Management Policy and Procedure.

8 Accessibility of the environment

The University recognises that physical access to the estates and buildings is a crucial aspect of its policy towards disabled students and staff.

The University currently ensures that:

  • Disabled students and staff are given priority with regard to parking access to buildings.
  • Personal egress and exit plans are in place for relevant students and staff
  • Due regard is paid to the needs of disabled students and staff for accessible teaching accommodation and appropriate timetabling of classes
  • Equipment and furniture is suitable for use by disabled students and staff.

9 Complaints procedure

The University aims to provide an environment which is supportive and fair. If any probelm relating to the operation of this policy occurs, students and staff are encouraged to advise an appropriate member of staff as soon as possible. Where a complaint is not dealt with satisfactorily at an informal level, any formal complaint should, in the case of a student, be pursued through the Complaints Procedure.

For staff a complaint or grievance should be pursued through the appropriate grievance procedure or Dignity at Work Policy. Both the Grievance Policy and the Dignity at Work Policy can be found on the intranet in the Human Resources site under Policies and Procedures