As with any personal information that a student shares with you it’s important that your first response is positive and encouraging. You may be the first person they have shared this with and so how you respond may influence what they do next or how comfortable they are with sharing this personal information with others.
You don’t have to be an expert but you can respond in a way which shows that you respect their situation and want to help them get the support they need. Some students are hesitant to disclose that they have a disability for fear of being treated less favourably or because they wish to be as independent as possible.
A good starting place is to ask if they have registered with Disability Services. If they haven’t done so you should suggest they contact Disability Services on 02890975251 or email@example.com. They can also be directed to the Disability and Wellbeing drop-in (Monday - Friday, 11.00am - 3.00pm, Level 1, One Elmwood Student Centre, or call, 07387546123) for more information and support with accessing support through Disability Services
You could also ask them if they are receiving support from their GP or another health professional. If not, you can encourage them to make an appointment to see their GP. It’s also helpful to give them the name and contact details of the Disability Adviser in their School so that they have a named person to follow up with.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 defines disability as: “A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” Students who have a diagnosed disability can access a range of supports and have reasonable adjustments put in place based on an individual assessment of need.
Under the legislation it is deemed that if a student discloses a disability to one person in the University then the whole of the University is aware and must respond appropriately. For this reason, it is important that if you are in this situation you can demonstrate how you responded – sending a follow up email to the student advising them to contact Disability Services is one way of doing this. If you feel the student may have a barrier in contacting Disability Services it is good practice to offer to contact on their behalf and share contact details with their permission.
Sometimes, when a student discloses personal information for the first time they can be reluctant to talk to anyone else about it. This may be because they feel overwhelmed or vulnerable. If you are in this situation reassure the student of your concern for them, that you want them to get the best support and that there may be limits to what you personally can do for them. Reassure them that they have already taken the first step and you will support them to access the support they need. This may include making an initial contact with another service on their behalf.
You must respect the confidentiality of the student and always seek agreement from the student before sharing any information with anyone else.
The link to the Disability Policy is here