Some Advice About the DDA and Requests for Confidentiality

Some Advice About the DDA and Requests for Confidentiality

Some advice about the DDA and requests for confidentiality.

  1. The Disability Discrimination Act:

The Disability Discrimination Act put a statutory duty on HEIs to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled students are not put at a disadvantage (in relation to time, inconvenience, effort and discomfort). Under the DDA, HEIs must ensure that:

they are not treating disabled students less favourably,

they create an inclusive environment,

they anticipate support requirements ,

they offer many opportunities for students to disclose their special need and provide support at the earliest opportunity.

The DDA characterises somebody as being disabled when “he or she has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities” (DDA, part IV).

“Substantial” means that the impairment goes beyond usual differences between individuals, and “long term” is quantified as lasting12 months or as likely to recur within 12 months.

  1. The DDA and the Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act categorises as “sensitive personal data” the information regarding the physical or mental health condition of a person. Therefore, information about a person’s disability/ special need falls under the category of “sensitive personal data” and can only be processed with the expressed consent of the person in question and once the person understands what the institution is going to do with the data.

Equally , DDA does not supersede The Data Protection Act so…

  1. What should staff do when a student declares a disability/special need but requests confidentiality?

You must:

Never promise full confidentiality but always promise discretion. Confidentiality may have to be broken when not processing it would compromise our duty of care towards the student/other students (i.e. a student expresses suicidal intents).

Explain what is understood by “discretion”:

-Why the information should be shared (sharing the information means getting access to reasonable adjustments)

-Who will see the information (need-to-know basis)

-How the information will be shared (only a few people will know the nature of the disability, the others will only be told of the support needs)

Allay common fears (i.e. the information will not be put on student’s transcript or on future references to employers…)

Make it clear to the student that he/she will not be able to benefit from reasonable adjustments if the disability/ special need is not declared to the ESO.

Above all, you must:

Ask the student to register with the ESO and follow up on the referral


Give the ESO the name of the student (not the nature of their disability) so that a generic email can be sent.

Keep all correspondence on file. When possible, try to get the student to sign a disclaimer form.

  1. For further advice and specific queries, contact the ESO Team

Senior Educational Support Officer: Alex Stanton (FW151/ ext. 3393)

Assistant Educational Support Officer: Debra Atkin (FW151/ ext. 3966)

Susan Jewitt – Student Support Workers Administrator (FW151/ ext. 4634)

Pippa Moore – Study Skills Tutor SpLDs (FW147 / ext. 4289)

Audrey Aquilina – Administrative Assistant (FW151/ ext. 6473)

Alex Stanton, 14.09.2010