Student in wheelchair at computer

Understanding the Disability Standards I

teaching practice

For student year

Preschool – Year 12

Helps students to

  • feel supported
  • be included
  • Helps teachers to

  • understand the standards
  • understand adjustments
  • Summary

    This is the first in a two-part practice series about the Disability Standards for Education (DSE).  

    • Understanding the Disability Standards for Education I (this practice)
    • The Disability Standards for Education II: Making reasonable adjustments

    Are you aware of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 or the Disability Standards for Education 2005?

    These two pieces of Commonwealth legislation outline legal obligations to enable inclusion at your school and in your classroom.

    This introductory practice presents these two pieces of legislation and will assist you to understand:

    • educators obligations
    • how direct and indirect discrimination may operate within schools
    • harassment and victimisation

    The content in this practice has been developed by Professor Elizabeth Dickson, an expert in education law.

    The content presented in this practice is provided for information only.  It does not constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.

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    Preparing to teach

    Before you start

    Download and browse the Disability Standards for Education – this is a 28 page document.

    The latest version can be downloaded from Australian Government Federal Register of Legislation.

    Introduction to Discrimination Law and the Disability Standards for Education

    Students with disability have a right to education on the same basis as students without disability. Sometimes students need to be treated differently in order to be treated equitably. The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and the associated Disability Standards for Education 2005, prohibit schools from discriminating against students with disability and oblige schools to make reasonable adjustment for those students. 


    The first concept that needs to be understood is that discrimination against students with disability is prohibited. A failure to make reasonable adjustment may result in discrimination. While it’s often difficult to prove discrimination (for a variety of reasons), students can and do sue schools if they believe their treatment is discriminatory. 

    There are two kinds of discrimination:

    • Direct
    • Indirect

    Direct discrimination is when a disabled person is treated unfairly because of their disability. An example would be refusing enrolment to a student with disability. 

    Indirect discrimination is when a rule or requirementthatapplies to everybody unfairly disadvantages people who are disabled. An example would be if a person is required to do something that they cannot do because of their disability, or they miss out on participating fully in an activity because reasonable adjustments have not been made.

    Harassment and victimisation

    Schools have an obligation to prevent the harassment and victimisation of students with disability. They must take positive steps to prevent it, and respond to it promptly and fairly if it does occur.


    • Harassment is an action taken that is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to humiliate, offend, intimidate or distress the person
    • Victimisation is subjecting a person to a detriment because they have sued/intend to sue or give evidence

    Reflection questions:

    • What steps could you take to promote the message that students (with disability) must not be harassed?
    • What would you do if you witnessed the harassment of a student with disability?

    Video 1: Let me win

    Duration: 03:10

    Let me win video transcript

    Video 2: A school in the bush

    Duration: 05:41

    A school in the bush video transcript

    Video 3: A grand entrance but not for all.

    Duration: 04:05

    A grand entrance but not for all video script

    Video 4: Jacob’s story.

    Duration: 05:58

    Jacob's story video transcript

    Reflection task

    After reviewing the videos and listening to the stories consider the following reflection questions:

    • Can you think of examples of direct discrimination and indirect discrimination affecting a student with disability that might arise at your school?
    • Can you think of examples of adjustments that might be made for a student with disability inside the classroom and outside the classroom at your school?
    • Who would you talk to at your school if you weren’t sure what processes were in place to support students with disabilities?
    • What additional actions would you recommend your school takes to ensure all students can participate on the same basis as one another?

    Practice toolkit

    Practice implementation planner template

    We know that it is not always easy to keep track of what is working and what is not. So, we have created this template for you to record and reflect on what you are doing to help you create a more inclusive classroom. The implementation planner contains:

    • Guidance around goal setting
    • Reflection section (What worked, didn’t work and what to change and next steps.)
    • Prompting questions

    Implementation planner template

    Implementation planner with examples

    Set your professional learning goal for:

    Understanding the Disability Standards I
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    Benefits of goal setting

    Setting, working towards, and reflecting on goals helps you grow professionally and improve your practice. You can access AITSL learning resources for teachers to learn more about:
    How to set goals
    The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership recommends using the SMART matrix to frame your goal setting.

    SMART goals refers to goals that are:
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Time-phased
    Read more about Improving teaching practices.


    2020 Review Summary Document

    2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005

    Fact sheet 1: Disability Discrimination Act 1992

    Disability Standards for Education 2005

    Fact sheet 2: Disability Standards for Education 2005

    Disability Standards for Education 2005

    Fact sheet 3: Parental engagement

    Disability Standards for Education 2005

    Fact sheet 4: Effective consultation

    Disability Standards for Education 2005

    Fact sheet 5: Complaints processes

    Disability Standards for Education 2005

    Exemplars of Practice

    Disability Standards for Education 2005

    Related Practices