Policy Academic Governance Student Disability Policy

Student Disability Policy

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This Policy sets out James Cook University’s (‘the University’) approach to:

  • establishing a diverse student community that is representative of the broader community, and
  • creating an environment where all students have the opportunity to develop their unique abilities and realise their potential.

The purpose of this policy and associated procedures is to create an inclusive, empowered student community, by ensuring education and training is accessible to all people experiencing disability.

James Cook University strongly encourages people experiencing any form of disability to share their perspectives and experiences and participate in higher education.


This Policy applies, as specified, to prospective students and students at Australian Tropical Campuses of the University.


In the context of this policy and associated procedures:

Adjustment/s: refers to any measure or action (or groups of measures and/or actions) taken by the University that assists a particular student with a disability in relation to:

- an admission – to apply for the admission to a course or program [a Prospective Student];

- an enrolment – to enrol in subjects [a Student]; and

- a course or program – to participate in the course or program [a Student]; and

- facilities or services [a Student] – to use the facilities or services,

on the same basis as a student without a disability and includes an aid, a facility, or a service that the student requires because of their disability. 

Prospective student: means a person who approaches the University about seeking admission to, or applying for, enrolment in coursework, research, a short course or unit of study, at the University.

Student: a person who has been admitted to a University course and has enrolled in a subject, and whose enrolment for that course or for that subject has not lapsed or been cancelled.

Disability: in relation to a person, means:

(a) total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions; or

(b) total or partial loss of a part of the body; or

(c) the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or

(d) the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or

(e) the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body; or

(f) a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person

without the disorder or malfunction; or

(g) a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of

reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behaviour;

and includes a disability that:

(h) presently exists; or

(i) previously existed but no longer exists; or

(j) may exist in the future; or

(k) is imputed to a person.

The University takes a broad approach to the definition of disability as established by the definitions set out in the Anti-Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination Act

Inherent requirements: are the identified abilities, attributes, skills and behaviours that must be demonstrated, at specific stages of learning, to successfully complete a course. These abilities, attributes, skills and behaviours preserve the academic integrity of the University’s learning, assessment, and accreditation processes, and where applicable meet the standards of a profession.

Examples of inherent requirements are:

  • the ability to perform tasks or functions which are a necessary part of a course of learning, and
  • the ability to undertake the activities of the course safely.

Outreach: all of the University’s activities which are designed to make people aware of their opportunities to enter higher education.


1. Outreach, Admission and Enrolment - Prospective Students

1.1 The University encourages and supports prospective students with disabilities to disclose the nature of their disabilities and discuss their requirements during outreach, admission and enrolment procedures. Early disclosure of disability experience will assist in timely exploration of study options and implementation of reasonable adjustments to access support services and participate in education.

Outreach activities

1.2 The University provides access for people with disabilities to attend, participate in, or engage with, its outreach activities. Programs, events and activities are designed with accessibility in mind and also offer a point of contact to allow for discussion and facilitation of reasonable adjustments to gain information on opportunities to enter higher education.

Admission to courses and enrolment

1.3 The University’s admission and enrolment processes allow for a student to disclose a disability to facilitate engagement with the University, if they wish, to seek support and/or reasonable adjustments to:

  • Access information about admission and enrolment offerings in a manner they can understand, and
  • Apply for courses and enrol in subjects on the same basis as students without a disability.

1.4 Prospective students, experiencing a disability, exploring course choices are strongly encouraged to contact AccessAbility Services to discuss the current range of possible reasonable adjustments and identify opportunities to explore potential personalised reasonable adjustments.

1.5 The University, if an experience of a disability has been disclosed in admission processes, gives due consideration to the fact that the individual may have experienced educational disadvantage because of the disability.

1.6 The University, provided other course requirements are met (eg. academic suitability), makes decisions about admission to courses on the basis that reasonable adjustments will be made to enable the student to participate in the course and/or subject.

2. Students undertaking studies at the University

2.1 Students experiencing a disability have a right to access:

  • all University support services, with reasonable support from the University if required, on the same basis as students without a disability, and
  • specialised services from external providers, with reasonable support from the University, to facilitate participation in education activities.

2.2 The University encourages and supports students experiencing a disability to disclose the nature of the disability to AccessAbility Services to:

  • facilitate access, with reasonable support from the University, to internal and external support services, if needed, and/or
  • negotiate reasonable adjustments to participate in learning activities.

Disclosure can be made at any time, noting that the process of negotiating and implementing reasonable adjustments may take several weeks.

2.3 Students seeking access to support or adjustments must supply supporting documentation about the nature and impact of the disability or medical condition in the learning environment. This documentation may include medical or professional advices, letters or reports, and reports from previous educational institutions, government and community agencies. The University may, in some circumstances, request an independent expert assessment in order to determine the nature of adjustments that may be appropriate for an individual student in undertaking a course or subject.

2.4 Students have access to all University courses, unless there is expert academic and medical advice that reasonable adjustments cannot be made to give the student the opportunity to meet the inherent requirements of the course.

3. Reasonable adjustments

3.1 All students, enrolled at the University, have the opportunity to demonstrate, with reasonable adjustments where applicable, the inherent requirements for their course.

3.2 The University, through AccessAbility Services, negotiates reasonable adjustments with the student or prospective student, their support person or representative and the relevant academic or administrative unit. The University considers these negotiations an open, constructive and respectful dialogue to explore new ways of teaching, learning and operating.

3.3 An adjustment will be reasonable if it balances the interests of all parties affected. Balancing the interests of all parties requires all parties to have regard to all relevant circumstances and interests, including but not limited to the effect of an adjustment on the student’s ability to participate in courses or programs, the effect of adjustments on the university and other students, and the costs and benefits of making adjustments.

3.4 In assessing whether an adjustment is reasonable, the University is entitled, in accordance with the Disability Education Standards, to maintain the inherent requirements of the course. Maintaining the inherent requirements of a course may prevent or limit the implementation of adjustments.

3.5 Exemptions from assessment items on the basis of disability are not a reasonable adjustment. Alternative strategies or arrangements, such as changes to the mode of questioning and response, use of separate examination rooms or spaces, and allowing extended periods of time for undertaking assessments, which may be reasonable adjustments to assessments, may be available.

3.6 Exemptions from University workplace health and safety and academic integrity training, including but not limited to training to prevent bullying, sexual harassment or assault, are not a reasonable adjustment.

3.7 The University ensures work integrated learning and professional placements implement reasonable adjustments. The University will share an Access Plan with a placement agency in order to implement reasonable adjustments. However, this does not override the University’s obligations to uphold:

  • the inherent requirements of the course,
  • the health and safety of University students and staff, and
  • the health and safety requirements of placement agencies.

3.8 The University will suspend or end participation in learning activities, work integrated learning and professional placements, if it is reasonably necessary to protect the health and welfare of the Student or others.

3.9 Reasonable adjustments, agreed between all parties, will be formalised in an Access Plan. The Plan is reviewed each year or earlier, if needs and/or circumstances change. The Access Plan does not contain details on the nature of a disability.

4. Right of Review

4.1 Students and prospective students have a right to:

  • Disclose a disability without fear of harassment, victimisation or discrimination, and
  • Request adjustments, and
  • Have agreed reasonable adjustments made in a timely manner to facilitate opportunities to achieve the learning outcomes of the course or unit of study.

4.2 Prospective students and students who believe their requests for adjustments have been unreasonably refused or their agreed reasonable adjustments have not been implemented in a timely manner may make a complaint under the Student Complaints Policy.

5. Elimination of discrimination and harassment

5.1 University Staff develop and plan academic courses, units and assessment methods that take into account the diversity of the student population and emerging innovative best practice.

5.2 The University has zero-tolerance for discrimination and harassment. To foster and maintain a climate that values equity and diversity, the University:

  • actively promotes and supports community diversity through strategies, programs and training,
  • responds to all reports of discrimination and harassment promptly,
  • provides interim protective measures and accommodations to staff and current students raising concerns about discrimination and harassment, to address safety and emotional well-being, and
  • acts in a manner that recognizes the inherent dignity of all individuals.

5.3 Students who believe they have experienced discrimination or harassment because of their disability, or because they are an associate of student experiencing a disability, are encouraged to seek a resolution through the University’s Bullying, Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures.

6. Confidentiality and Disclosure

6.1 Students are required to disclose personal information regarding disability or medical conditions to AccessAbility Services to negotiate and implement reasonable adjustments and other support.

6.2 Students have the right to disclose the nature of a disability, to the University once, to AccessAbility staff, for the purpose of developing an Access Plan or accessing support services. Students are not required to disclose the nature of a disability to all relevant teaching, administrative staff or placement agencies. Students have a right to determine the level of disclosure they wish to make and the range of staff to whom disclosure can be made, however the level of disclosure and range of staff agreed by the student may impact on the University’s, and placement agencies, ability to negotiate and implement reasonable adjustments or access to services.

6.3 All information collected and created will be managed in accordance with the University’s Information Privacy Policy and used only for the purposes of disclosure.

6.4 The University is required to provide de-identified data for government reporting under the Disability Support Program.

Related policy instruments

Bullying, Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy

Information Privacy Policy

Learning, Teaching and Assessment Policy

Review of a Student’s Suitability to Continue a Course Involving Placement

Student Complaints Policy

Student Disability AccessAbility Support and Plans Procedure

Student Disability Reasonable Adjustments Procedure

Related legislation

Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld)

Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)

Disability Standards for Education 2005

Human Rights Act 2019 (QLD)


NOTE: Printed copies of this policy are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.

Approval Details

Policy DomainAcademic Governance

Policy Sub-domain

Student Experience

Policy Custodian

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education

Approval Authority

Academic Board

Date for next Major Review



Approval date

Approved by

Implementation date



NA21/02/2023DVC Education22/02/2023Administrative amendment to clause 3.7 to replace reference to 'placement provider' with 'placement agency', for consistency.CEE Operations Coordinator
22-212/08/2022Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education23/08/2022
  • Update reference to Access Plans (formerly AccessAbility Plans) in Clauses 3.7, 3.9 and 6.2
  • Minor administrative changes
Manage, Office of Student Matters



Academic Board


Major policy review. Amended to reflect current legislative requirements and JCU’s commitment to inclusivity. Policy re-titled (from Students with Disabilities Policy)

Manager, Student Facing Policy


Access, Disabled, Disability, Health Condition, AccessAbility, Accessibility, reasonable adjustment, inherent requirements

Contact Person

Manager, Student Facing Policy