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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Disabled parents and school

Schools, colleges and universities have a duty to disabled parents to let them have reasonable access to services related to the education of their child or children. This is to ensure that disabled parents can be fully involved in their child's education.

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 provisions in the DDA to do with schools relate to disabled pupils.

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 (Part 3).

Your child's school (and the education department in your local authority) 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 disabled parent.

Things schools can do to support disabled parents

Consider contacting the school to ask them the ways they support disabled parents. For example, do staff members 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
  • contacting you via text message - for example, if a school closes due to flooding

It's also important to speak to your child's teacher(s) to make sure you have what you need to help with, and supervise, your child's homework.

'Learning Journey Guides' give parents information about what their children are doing at school at different stages in their education. These guides are available in Braille, large print and audio cassette.

Parents' evenings, school events and meetings with staff

Examples of how and when schools can support disabled parents 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 attend 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 appropriate, 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 disabled parking and/or making sure other parents' vehicles do not block access
  • allowing a disabled parent to be accompanied by their support and assistance dog

School transport

Under the DDA, a 'reasonable adjustment' might be, for example, for a local authority to provide free transport if your impairment prevented you from accompanying your child on a 'walking route' to school. Alternatively, your local authority might ensure that there was somebody else to regularly accompany your child instead.

The decision on whether, and how, to offer transport is made by your local authority and you should contact them for more information.

Parents' rights

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 relating to your child's education - for example, being able to teach your children at home. Find out more in the 'parents' section of Directgov.

Help and advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a good source of advice if you feel you may have been discriminated against in education or elsewhere. The commission's disability helpline can provide advice and information about the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to schools and colleges as well as disabled people.

Telephone: 08457 622 633

Textphone: 08457 622 644

Fax: 08457 778 878

Lines are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am-5pm; Wednesday 8am-8pm.

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