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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Modules] : SENDA

Introduction to the post-16 provisions of the DDA Part 4: Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001)

What is the new disability law that everyone is talking about?

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001) (SENDA) amended Part 4 of the DDA to include education. Therefore, SENDA has now become Part 4 of the DDA.

The new Part 4 of the DDA will be implemented in 3 main stages:

Who, or what, is a 'responsible body'?

The post-16 sections of the Act apply to all higher and further educational institutions and to LEA post-16 provision. The Act also applies to basic adult education in Scotland.

Those providing this provision are termed 'responsible bodies' and are accountable for the actions of their employees and their agents (e.g. contracted-out services such as accommodation or catering and contracted-in services such as part-time lecturers).

Can I be held personally responsible and taken to court?

The governing body or board of management of the institution will ultimately be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act. However, there is provision for individual liability under the Act if an employee or agent has been deemed to have 'aided an unlawful act' or to have 'made a recklessly false statement'. This can happen, even if the responsible body itself has a defence.


An institution may provide disability awareness training to all its employees. If the institution makes training mandatory and subsequently discrimination occurs, the institution may have a defence under the Act but the individual may not, being deemed to have 'knowingly aided an unlawful act'.

Who does the new law apply to?

Students, applicants and enquirers are all covered under the Act. Disabled students come under the Act no matter what their status: part-time, overseas, evening class, postgraduate, undergraduate, distance learning, etc.
Therefore, under the Act, the definition of disability is not related to being registered disabled nor to a student's eligibility for a Disabled Students' Allowance [?].
Even if a student attends only one of your modules at the university for 3 hours per week, they are covered by the Act.

The Act applies to all services 'provided wholly or mainly for students' including enrolment, admissions, catering, accommodation, careers services, chaplaincy, teaching and learning, graduation, etc.

Is there any guidance on the new law?

The Disability Rights Commission has published a Post-16 Code of Practice [External link: Open in new browser window] , which explains the Act in detail and provides useful examples to ensure compliance. You are encouraged to follow the Code to help prevent litigation.


You may want to think about what policies and procedures your institution has put in place when working with disabled students. For example:

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