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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Modules] : Disability Awareness


The hard reality is this. Society in every nation is still infected by the ancient assumption that people with disabilities are less than fully human and therefore, are not fully eligible for the opportunities which are available to other people as a matter of right.

Justin Dart [External link: Open in new browser window] , Disability Rights Activist, 1992

Changing attitudes to disability

Individual attitudes towards disabled people and society's response to disability have changed throughout history. In recent times the process of social change has culminated in the disability rights movement. In the UK pressure from groups of disabled people has resulted in legislative changes such as the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) which should lead to more equitable participation for disabled people.

However, despite recent changes to legislation, disabled people are statistically less likely to hold a degree qualification, to be in employment or to own their own home.


Many people are worried about meeting and working with disabled students. Typical questions include:

My class teacher hadn't worked with someone with an hearing impairment before and didn't know how to speak. She didn't know how to talk to me and didn't know what to tell the children.

Helen, 2nd year, BEd

Growth in the number of disabled people entering higher education and recent changes to legislation mean that university staff are likely to encounter disabled students on a more regular basis, so it is important that they feel comfortable when meeting them.

This module will explore some of the context behind current approaches to disability in higher education and give you a basic understanding of the disability rights agenda.

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