Introduction to disability

SAE promotes access and equity for students with a disability. Discover the things you need to know about studying with a disability at SAE, as well as answers to some commonly asked questions. If you want to receive support during your time at SAE for your disability needs, then you will need to register for disability support with a Student Services Adviser on your Campus.

What is disability?

Disability is a normal part of human diversity. Disability may be permanent, temporary or fluctuating, and may have a minimal or substantial impact on a person's life. Disability may impact mobility, learning or communication and can result from accident, illness or genetic conditions.

Disability does not just refer to a person's health or wellbeing. It involves the interaction between the unique features and functions of a person's body and mind and the environment and socio-political context in which they live.

Disability does not equate to inability to achieve. People with disability have the same right as everyone else to make decisions for their own lives and to be active members of society.

Disability forms only a part of an individual's identity. While some people identify strongly with their disability, others may see it as just another part of what makes them unique.


For SAE policies, the term encompasses ‘disability’ as defined in the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act (1992).

The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act (1992) defines ‘disability’ in relation to a person as:

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 a person’s body; or

f)  A disorder of 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, perceptions of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behavior, and includes a disability that:

●  Presently exists; or

●  Previously existed but no longer exists; or

●  May exist in the future; or

●  Is imputed to a person.

For more information on the definitions of disability categories, please see here.

What counts as a disability?

There is no definitive classification system for disability. Disability is a normal part of human diversity.

You may be affected temporarily, permanently or have symptoms that occur from time to time. Your disability may include one or more of the following:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Anxiety disorder (including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  • Autism spectrum (including Asperger’s Syndrome)
  • Depressive disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Learning disability
  • Medical condition
  • Neurological condition
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Physical disability
  • Psychiatric condition
  • Psychological condition
  • Psychotic disorder

Disability is not always visible or singular, for example, an individual who has cerebral palsy may also experience a mental health condition such as anxiety or someone with vision impairment may also have a learning disability.

Depending on the severity of your condition, you may require long or short term assistance with any of the above. 

If you are still unsure if you have a disability or if we can help you, contact us to have a confidential chat.

What are reasonable adjustments?

Reasonable Adjustments are a change to a module or program which may alter, within reason, the specific activities without compromising the essential learning objectives and/or the inherent requirements of the module or program. Not all people who have a disability require reasonable adjustments.

What are inherent requirements?

The Australian Human Rights Commission states inherent requirements, in the circumstances of each job, may include:

●  The ability to perform tasks or functions which are a necessary part of the job productivity and quality requirements;

●  The ability to work effectively in the team or other type of work organisation concerned; and

●  The ability to work safely. 

In assessing whether an adjustment to a module or program in which a student is enrolled, or proposes to be enrolled, is reasonable, SAE is entitled to maintain the academic requirements of the module or program, and other requirements or components that are inherent in or essential to its nature (Disability Standards for Education). Further explanation of these and related concepts can be found in the Commonwealth and State legislation and at Employment and the Disability Discrimination Act. 

Determining Reasonable Adjustments

Whether an adjustment is reasonable will be determined in accordance with the Disability Standards for Education. This will involve taking into account all the relevant circumstances and interests, including the student's Disability; the effect of the proposed adjustment on the student and on anyone else affected, including the Institute, staff and other students.

Reasonable adjustments may encompass a range of areas including:

  • Amendments to assessment arrangements, such as flexible assignment deadlines;
  • Flexibility in attendance requirements;
  • Alternative Exam Arrangements;
  • Teaching delivery and format, such as lecturers providing slides and other teaching material to students in advance of class, or the recording of lectures.