The Disability Advisory Service (DAS) facilitates access to study for all students with a disability which meets Equality Act criteria. The following information provides a definition of disability and outlines the benefits of disclosure and the sharing of information.
The DAS is there to facilitate access to study for students who have, for example:
- A sensory impairment such as those affecting sight or hearing
- A mobility impairment
- A musculoskeletal condition such as arthritis
- A long-term health condition including those of a fluctuating or progressive nature
- A long-term mental health condition such as depression or an eating disorder
- A specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD
- A social or communication difficulty such as Asperger Syndrome
Under the Equality Act (2010), a person is considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial (‘more than minor or trivial’) and long-term (lasting or likely to last 12 months or more) adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Cancer, HIV and Multiple Sclerosis are included immediately from the point of initial diagnosis. Study, including examinations, falls under the category of a day-to-day activity. In order to arrange appropriate support, the University will ask to see evidence of your disability, which will help the DAS to consider what study support you may be able to access.
The DAS is not able to support students with temporary illnesses or injuries, or conditions which fall outside the Equality Act definition of a disability. Under those circumstances you should contact your college doctor or your senior tutor who can advise on temporary college support.
Responsibility for meeting the needs of disabled students is shared across the University of Oxford. The DAS provides advice to colleges and departments about the disability-related adjustments they might make, however, the final legal responsibility falls to colleges and the University (in the case of departments). The DAS does not have jurisdiction to require adjustments. Please see the University’s Common Framework on Supporting Students with Disabilities for further information.
Disclosing a disability
You are strongly encouraged to tell the University if you feel you are disabled. You can discuss your circumstances at any time during your studies, but you are encouraged to disclose your disability as early as possible, preferably before starting your course. This is so that you can benefit more quickly from the full range of support that is available. Whether you come to Oxford with a pre-existing disability, or develop or acquire a disability whilst you are studying, a disclosure will not affect academic review of your work. You should disclose a disability so that:
- the University can understand any difficulties and offer appropriate help;
- reasonable adjustments or individually tailored support can be arranged;
- the DAS can communicate with you about events or initiatives that might be of interest; and
- the DAS can monitor the University’s support and inclusion of students with disabilities.
Sharing your information
If you choose to tell the University about your disability the information will be regarded as sensitive personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Act (1998) and will only be shared with your permission and on a need-to-know basis.
If you have any concerns about telling the University about your disability, you are welcome to discuss informally with the DAS how and when any information would be shared before you decide how to go forward. By contacting the DAS you would not be obliged to then declare a disability.
The DAS do encourage you to give your consent for them to share information. In order to arrange certain types of support the DAS will need to share relevant details with other key staff within the University who have a legitimate need to know, so that they are able to support you properly. The DAS maintains a written record of your contact with the Service, which will be held securely, and use statistical information for reporting purposes without your identity being revealed.
You can let the DAS know if you would prefer that information is not shared and your requests for confidentiality will be respected. However, please be aware that this will have significant implications for the extent of support that can be arranged by the University.
The DAS will only break confidentiality if there are concerns about a serious and imminent risk to your own or someone else’s health and safety. In addition, in the case of a formal complaint, the DAS might need to provide information about a case to the University’s Proctors, insurers, or legal advisers. Disclosure might be required in some (very rare) instances if the Service is ordered to provide information by a court of law.
Sometimes parents contact the DAS to alert them to a concern or to ask if their son or daughter has requested help. The DAS will not be able to provide information without your written permission. Equally, it is only possible for the DAS to act on any information a parent shares with them if you are aware (or the parent is happy for the DAS to make you aware) that they have contacted the Service.