There is a range of International, National and State legislation and conventions that relate to people with disability and their right to equal access to education.
Education providers and authorities are obliged under these laws and conventions to make necessary adjustments to enable students with disability to get the same schooling experience at regular schools that other Australian children enjoy.
Despite this, children with disability still face many barriers when it comes to enrolling and participating in their regular class at school. It’s important that parents understand the rights of their child to education so that they can better assess and dismantle barriers that may be impacting on their child’s ability to participate in the regular class. Read an informative article by Kathy Cologon; Preventing Inclusion? Inclusive Early Childhood Education and the Option to Exclude. This article explores some of the exclusionary structures and practices that form considerable barriers to the realisation of the commitment to inclusive education.
While we recommend being informed on the rights your child has to education, families have shared with us instances where discussing rights in meetings with schools has created hostility. For this reason we recommend that families think very carefully about whether a ‘rights’ based argument is the best approach.
Disability Standards for Education: A Practical Guide for Individuals, Families and Communities
This resource aims to increase awareness and understanding of the Disability Standards for Education among individuals, families and communities throughout Australia. It was developed by the University of Canberra. We would note that it is not always helpful to talk to potential schools in terms of rights, but it is helpful to have an understanding of your rights. Knowing and acting on rights is two different things.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) 2007
The stated purpose of the UNCRP is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. Article 24 focuses on Education.
Australia signed the convention in March, 2007.
The Australian Human Rights Commission provides more information including the steps Australia is taking to implement the UNCRPD.
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992
The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. The DDA makes it against the law for an educational authority to discriminate against someone because that person has a disability. Education can be found in Section 22 of the DDA.
The Australian Human Rights Commission provides comprehensive information about the DDA in relation to education.
The Disability Standards are intended to give students with disability the same rights as other students. This includes the right to comparable access, services and facilities, and the right to participate in education and training without discrimination. Education providers have a positive obligation to make changes to reasonably accommodate the needs of a student with disability.
NSW Education Act 1990
Among its principles, this Act states that:
(a) every child has the right to receive an education,
(b) the education of a child is primarily the responsibility of the childs parents,
(c) it is the duty of the State to ensure that every child receives an education of the highest quality.
For further information on disability rights in education you can visit the Australian Human Rights Commission Education page.