Disabled students


The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as a long-term physical or mental impairment that has a substantial negative effect on the ability of the individual to do normal daily activities.  Long term usually relates to 12 months or more and when we talk about the meaning of substantial we refer to more than minor or trivial.  You are deemed to automatically meet the disability definition from the day you are diagnosed with conditions such as HIV infection, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

In advising students, we point them at their funding bodies requirements to provide evidence of their disability for which they are seeking funded support (such as one to one support or equipment) and in all other cases, we would ask students to provide reasonable evidence that their condition meets the Equality Act definition.


  • Simply put – don’t label, avoid stereotypes!
  • If there is a non-medical helper in your session, they should introduce themselves to you as a member of the DIAS team.  They will be working in confidence to support one or more students so should not be asked about the students they support, why they are there and they should not participate in the session in any way.
  • Don’t call out someone’s disability, you may know about it and the student may openly discuss it but it is not for you to share (this includes asking non-medical helpers why their student is not in attendance).
  • Remember students’ are the experts on their disability, they’ve usually lived with it for a long while before reaching University.  If students ask for support – find a confidential space, listen openly and reach practical solutions on any barriers they may face where you can.
  • If you need any help or advice, please come and speak to the DIAS team but remember we cannot speak specifically about a student without their permission.  It is therefore preferred if the student is involved in any discussions where practical.  However we can always give generalised advice.


Universities and funding bodies use the definition contained within the Equality Act 2010 to define disability:-

“A physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”  (normal daily activities includes the type of activities a student accessing higher education would need to do)

Watch this to find out more about the ‘Social model vs medical model’, it is a very short light-hearted cartoon but seems to cover the important points:-


The Laurence Clark video alongside explains why he hates being called inspiring…

Overview of students disability at Marjon

At Marjon, we have a higher than average rate of students disclosing disability or health impairments compared with other UK universities – in recent years this has equated to approximately 22-25% of our population (higher rates within our undergraduates than postgraduates).  This reinforces the need for an inclusive University approach to everything we do.

As you are no doubt aware, every disability and health impairment you see in society is usually represented amongst our student population.  That includes such a large range of health conditions which can be very challenging in day to day life in different ways, sometimes visible but more often than not, in quite invisible ways.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) requires students to ‘code’ their disability into one of a number of categories and in 2016/17 academic year, our data included:-

2% – hearing impairment

3% – physical impairment

14% – mental health condition

9%- long standing illness or health condition

12% – two or more conditions

3% – social communication/Autistic spectrum disorder

53% – specific learning difficulty (SpLD)

3% – other disability, impairment or medical condition

You can see from this, that this sometimes means that data cannot show you the full picture either.  Students who use the category “two or more conditions” may have any two diagnoses including ASD, dyslexia or mental health whilst students coded as “other disability” may have similar or other wide ranging threats to their health.

However we can tell you that specific learning difficulties (SpLDs) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia are one of the biggest groups represented within our disabled population – in any year this will account for around 50-60% of those registered with the DIAS team (disability and inclusion advice service).  Within education, SpLDs are considered to affect day to day life as they affect the way information is learned and processed and occur independently of intelligence.

You can view the annual equality report from this link to find out more about our current population of students:-


We also know that there are two categories which are seeing increasing numbers declaring – these are students who have a diagnosed mental ill health condition and students who have an ASC (autistic spectrum condition) diagnosis.  Please be aware that students with mental ill health or ASC will usually have been through a long period of assessment before their diagnosis has been provided.

Support for students with disabilities can be complex.  Some higher level support is available from funding bodies such as Student Finance England however there is a substantial University responsibility also (under the Equality Act 2010 for instance which contains a Public Sector Equality Duty).  For these reasons, we would ask staff to refer students to the DIAS team for advice at the University/funding level rather than trying to provide information on disability support to students.  However academic staff can play a vital role in informing students about how they provide an inclusive environment in the teaching setting and within assessment practices.  We would encourage staff to include how they use tools such as Panopto lecture capture, when and how materials are shared through learning space and alternative assessment at welcome, induction or open day talks.  Anecdotally we know this makes a big difference to students on their decisions to disclose their disability to us and that in turn helps the University support them aiding study success and retention as well as stress.

You can contact the DIAS team either at disability@marjon.ac.uk or telephone extension 2033 or drop in to see us at Student Support, West Block (near the Student Hub).  Students can come to one of our twice weekly drop-ins (advertised in the Hub) or email us at disability@marjon.ac.uk to ask a simple query or to book a personal appointment.