I thought the Government had a goal of equality for disabled people by 2025 but, when it comes to exams, it turns out that just “minimising disadvantage” is the highest goal the Government will aspire to.
Yes, I’ve slipped back into angry deaf man mode. On Tuesday, Lords were debating the issue of accessible exams for disabled people and possible new laws as part of the Equality Bill. NDCS, Skill, Afasic, RNIB, the Disability Charities Consortium and the Equality and Human Rights Commission all wanted the Government to strengthen the law. But the Government decided to side with the views of exam bodies. The same people who removed all support for disabled people in 2005 on the basis that reasonable adjustments were unfair and took marks away from deaf students when they were unable to hear tapes in oral exams. If a deaf person wanted a test on ability to hear, I think most of us would prefer to go to an audiologist. Anyhow, NDCS led a coaition to get that support reinstated but still, we come across sporadic examples of problems. Anecdotally, my colleagues report still going to meetings where exam bodies discuss whether someone reading out text for blind people is “unfair” to non-blind people.
The Equality Bill now provides exam bodies and the exams regulator with a range of “get-out” clauses to avoid having to provide full access, even though there are lots of safeguards already in place to make sure that the exams are still rigorous and not watered down.
Perhaps the most offensive thing of all is that the Bill says the regulator only needs to “minimise” disadvantage faced by disabled people in exams. If you’re going to be slapped around the face unnecessarily, it’s not much consolation to be told that the Government did try to “minimise” any harm to you.
You can read NDCS’s statement on this issue here. We’re having a think about next steps. If you’ve got any thoughts on the issue or any ideas on next steps, please do leave a comment below or email NDCS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: There’s now a Downing St petition on this. Find out more…