aerial shot of campus

Disability Policy and FAQs

We have put together a range of information for staff relating to the University's Disability Policy for students, including the legal framework and adjustments that students can expect. While this is predominantly aimed at staff, as students, you also have the right to know what level of service you can expect from the University. What is classed as a disability can also be a source of some confusion, so the FAQs section below aims to answer these and other policy-related queries.

  • How do I know whether a condition is considered to be a disability?

    The important factor in determining whether something is a disability is whether the impairment resulting from the condition has an effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities and the extent and timescale of this effect. In general one would be considered to have a disability if one has an impairment that is either physical or mental, the impairment has adverse effects which are ‘substantial’ and the substantial effects are long-term.

  • What counts as a ‘substantial’ adverse effect on the ability to undertake an activity/activities?

    substantial effect is:

    • greater than the effect resulting from the physical and mental conditions experienced by most people, which result in only minor or trivial effects;
    • likely to impact upon the length of time it takes to undertake an activity and/or the way it is undertaken.
    • in some cases, the result of a combination of conditions which alone would only cause a minor effect.

    People with progressive medical conditions would be defined as disabled even if their current condition only results in some adverse effects, but the adverse effects are likely to become substantial in the future

  • What is defined as a long-term effect?

    A long-term effect of an impairment is one:

    • which has lasted at least 12 months or
    • where the total period for which it lasts, from the time of the first onset, is likely to be at least 12 months or
    • which is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected.
  • What is a normal day-to-day activity?

    In general, day-to-day activities are the things people do on a regular or daily basis such as shopping, reading, writing, having a conversation, getting washed and dressed, preparing and eating food, walking and travelling by various forms of transport, taking part in social activities, etc. For a student, studying would be an everyday activity.

  • What sorts of impairments are classified as disabilities?

    It is not possible to provide a definitive list of conditions but a disability can arise from a wide range of impairments. Categories of impairment and examples within each category are listed below:

    • Sensory
      Visual (including Irlen syndrome) and hearing impairments
    • Developmental
      Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
    • Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)
      Dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia
    • Mental health conditions/illnesses
      Depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, bipolar affective disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD), personality disorders, some self-harming behaviour
    • Fluctuating or recurring conditions 
      Rheumatoid arthritis, myalgic encephalitis (ME)/chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, epilepsy, diabetes
    • Progressive conditions
      Motor neurone disease (MND/ALS), muscular dystrophy, forms of dementia, lupus (SLE), multiple sclerosis (MS)
    • Organ specific conditions
      Respiratory (e.g. asthma) and cardiovascular conditions (including thrombosis, stroke and heart disease)
    • Body or brain injury
      Paralysis, brain damage.
  • Can hayfever be considered a disability?

    Hayfever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) is not considered to be a disability unless it aggravates the effect of another condition.

  • Is depression that is being treated considered a disability?

    If someone has depression that has a substantial adverse effect on carrying out normal day-to-day activities then they would be considered to have a disability. Even if the effects may seem minor in isolation (e.g. they find it difficult to get up in the morning), several minor effects can have a substantial cumulative effect. The effects of the condition are considered by reference to what they would be if the person were not taking medication or receiving counselling.

  • Who will be told about a student's declared disability?

    Access to disability-related information will be provided on a need to know basis only, in accordance with the Data Protection Act (1998), in order for reasonable adjustments to be implemented. The Disability Service will co-ordinate the implementation of reasonable adjustments. They may share information with a student's academic department in order to allow them to implement specific adjustments to enable them to study. The library may be informed if specific library-related support is recommended. The University Registry may be informed where exam adjustments are required and College staff, such as Accommodation Managers and Porters may be informed for health and safety reasons. Information will only be shared with exchange institutions, placements or other external institutions where the student has given permission.

  • What if a student or staff member doesn’t want to tell anyone at the University that they have a disability?

    A student has the right not to disclose their disability or to request that the existence or nature of their disability be treated as strictly confidential and therefore not shared with relevant staff across the University. Lancaster University promotes disclosure of disability as disclosure enables the university to best support disabled students; requests for strict confidentiality may mean that a less satisfactory adjustment is provided or that no adjustment can be provided. If disability impacts upon a staff member's professional fitness to train/practice standards they are personally responsible for disclosing relevant information about their disability in line with professional accreditation requirements. 

  • Can a student request to have all previously assessed work (prior to diagnosis) re-marked?

    Students are responsible for disclosing their disabilities to the University, and the University cannot implement reasonable adjustments retrospectively (i.e. prior to disclosure or diagnosis of disability). From the point of disclosure onwards the University will, as far as possible through reasonable adjustments, change practices or environments to remove any disabling effects or barriers to participation, in order that all students can fully participate in the education, facilities and services provided by the University.

  • How does a student find out what reasonable adjustments can be made for a disability?

    The first point of contact is the Disability Service. A disability adviser can discuss the impact of a disability and the options available in terms of reasonable adjustments and support. Some medical evidence or relevant documentation that confirms the condition and/or explains the impact of the condition on everyday activities and functioning will be required. To make an appointment with a disability adviser call 01524 592111.

  • What are reasonable adjustments?

    A reasonable adjustment is any action that helps to reduce the effect of an impairment, which places a learner at a substantial disadvantage. Reasonable adjustments must not affect the validity or reliability of assessment outcomes nor must they give the learner an unfair academic advantage over other learners. Reasonable adjustments must not impact on any competence standards and must be permissible and practical for the particular circumstances in which they are implemented. As a result the same adjustments may not always be allowed or possible to implement in all situations. The University do not set specific reasonable adjustments for students with particular disabilities.  All reasonable adjustments will be considered on a case by case basis taking into account a variety of factors as outlined in the Lancaster University Student Disability Policy.

Disability Service, Student Wellbeing Services, University House, Lancaster, LA1 4YW - 01524 592111