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Press release: for release Friday 18th June 2002



College on trial under new disability discrimination legislation

A college will face a mock trial at Skill's conference on 18 June 2002. The institution will be taken to court by a disabled student alleging discrimination under the new Disability Discrimination Act Part 4: Education which comes into force from September 2002. The trial will highlight some of the key points of the legislation and will demonstrate the type of legal action a college or university could face from September 2002 if they do not make the necessary changes to their policies, practices and procedures.

Barbara Waters, Chief Executive at Skill, said, "Skill has seen a variety of responses from institutions to the new legislation. These range from the complacent, 'we're doing a lot anyway… we have a disability office' to the 'I can't believe it, we're going to have to spend millions on new buildings' reaction, neither of which are helpful. Skill is trying to explain the reality of the legislation and to show that it is something that institutions should be taking very seriously."

During the trial, the evidence from the claimant, student Beverley Myatt, and the defendant, Boghampton College of Further Education, showed that the two parties were generally in agreement about the facts of the case, but they had different views on how the legislation applied to the case. The judge, played by Tony Askham of Bond Pearce Solicitors, gave the verdict (see appendix 1) addressing several key points in the legislation.

The event, supported by the Disability Rights Commission and Bond Pearce Solicitors, on 18 June is one of several services that Skill is providing to help institutions to prepare for their obligations under the new legislation. Skill has also recently launched an online quiz on the Skill website, www.skill.org.uk. Here participants can score their knowledge and understanding of the new legislation. Skill's policy team has also been leading training sessions on the new legislation at institutions around the country.

Press places are still available at the Skill conference on 18 June 2002 in London, please contact Liz Victor at Skill for further information, Tel: 0207 450 0643 (office hours), Tel: 07890 419 867 (out of office hours), Email: lizv@skill.org.uk Interviews with Skill's Policy Director can be arranged through Liz Victor at Skill.

Notes to editors:

1. Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities gives information and advice to thousands of disabled students every year on how to maximise their experiences in education (higher and further), volunteering, training, and employment. The Skill information service is open from Monday to Thursday, 1:30pm to 4:30pm, on 0800 328 5050 (voice) or 0800 068 2422 (text). Extensive information is publicly available on Skill's website: www.skill.org.uk. Skill also advises government policy makers and disseminates good practice through publications, conferences and professional networks. Skill is a registered charity (no. 801971) with offices in London, Belfast and Edinburgh.

2. The Disability Discrimination Act Part 4: Education (Special Educational Needs and Disability Act) became law in May 2001. It is an amendment to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and covers pre- and post-16 education, making discrimination against disabled students in the provision of education unlawful from September 2002 in England, Wales and Scotland.


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