The Disability Discrimination Act
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) covers many areas of everyday life, including education and access to goods and services. Generally, the parts in the DDA to do with schools relate to pupils with disabilities.
However, many services provided by a school do not relate directly to your child's education, but are considered a 'service to the public' and are covered by the DDA.
Your child's school should make 'reasonable adjustments' to procedures and policies or provide you with aids to help you access their services, like putting information in accessible formats. They must not refuse to provide a service, or provide a lesser service, to you as a parent with disabilities.
How schools can support parents with disabilities
Consider contacting the school to ask them how they support parents with disabilities. For example, do staff get disability awareness training, how accessible is the school and how is information provided to parents?
Information for parents in alternative formats
Examples of how and when schools can make reasonable steps to provide information in alternative formats include:
- providing a school's annual report, quarterly newsletter or your child's school report in Braille, large print, 'easy-read' or on CD
- if a school's complaint procedure says you should write to the head teacher, you should be allowed to make a verbal complaint if you are unable to write because of your impairment
It's also important to speak to your child's teacher to let them know what support you need to help with and supervise homework.
Interpreters for deaf parents
If you are a parent who is deaf, the Education Authority can arrange an interpreter for:
- transfer visits to prepare your child for the move from primary to secondary school
- parent / teacher meetings
- any visits about your child’s education
If you need this service, contact your child’s school, giving at least two weeks' notice and state if you would prefer a British sign language or an Irish sign language interpreter.
Parents' evenings, school events and meetings with staff
Examples of how and when schools can support parents with disabilities include:
- using a pen and notepad to communicate with you if you are deaf or hearing impaired and/or providing induction loops in a certain room
- arranging for an interpreter, for example, in British Sign Language (BSL) and/or allowing more time for one-to-one meetings
- updating you on your child's progress by telephone or email if you are unable to go to a meeting because of your impairment
- holding a meeting in an accessible location, for example, to avoid stairs, if you have impaired mobility
- providing a script of a school play if you are deaf or hearing impaired to help follow the action
Visiting schools and accessibility
Examples of changes to policies and procedures, where suitable, that your child's school could make under the DDA include:
- assigning a member of staff to be responsible for meeting your access needs when you want to be shown around the school - including if you are blind or visually impaired (for example, so you can familiarise yourself with the school's layout)
- making sure the school is accessible if you are a wheelchair user by using ramps or making alterations to doorways
- providing parking for people with disabilities and make sure other parents' vehicles do not block access
- allowing a parent with disabilities to be accompanied by their support and assistance dog
The decision on whether, and how, to offer help with school transport is made by the Education Authority. You can find contact details for your local region at the following link.
Having parental responsibility means assuming all the rights, responsibilities and authority that a parent of a child has by law. You also have rights as a parent about your child's education, for example, being able to teach your child at home.
Help and advice
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland offers information and advice about disability rights.
Organisations like Disability Action also offer support and advice.