Disability rights and support

Any student who has a disability – whether permanent or short-term – has the right to access specialised support through the University’s Inclusion and Disability Services. There is no obligation to disclose any medical condition to the University – it is entirely your decision.

A benefit of registering with Disability Services is that an academic plan will be created. An academic plan includes adjustments to ensure you have equitable access to education. Your academic plan won’t disclose your diagnosis to faculty staff but will describe the likely impacts on your learning and let them know what adjustments you are entitled to.

Am I eligible to register with Disability Services?

You’re eligible to register with Disability Services if you have a disability as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Common disabilities that students register include (but are not limited to):

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • deafness/hearing impairment
  • blindness/vision impairment
  • other physical disabilities
  • developmental disabilities such as ADHD, ADD and Spatial Processing Disorder (SPD)
  • long term mental illnesses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • specific learning disabilities
  • acquired brain injury
  • chronic medical conditions including long COVID, ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia
  • temporary disabilities.

What sorts of adjustments can I get?

Common adjustments include:

  • equipment or modifications to make workspaces accessible
  • lecture recordings
  • extra time in exams
  • extensions on assessment submission deadlines
  • lockers for storage
  • assistive technology, or assistance to purchase assistive technology
  • equipment loans
  • AUSLAN interpreting
  • lecture support, for example peer note-taking and access to lecture recordings
  • library support
  • resting rooms (first aid rooms)
  • Disability Services Officer support for online exams or other online assessments
  • supervision meetings in a specific form or time of day (HDR students).

This list is not exhaustive – other support can be negotiated. If your medical practitioner recommends that you require a particular adjustment, Disability Services will consider it. Your faculty or school has the final say on adjustments, taking into account assessment standards set by professional associations, as well as the principle of not advantaging any student by allowing a particular adjustment.

Disability Services is limited in the types of adjustments included in an  academic plan, so some students find there is little benefit to registering with Disability Services. We recommend that you contact Disability Services to discuss the types of adjustments you require before proceeding with a medical report and registering. Many students choose not to register with Disability Services and instead rely on their own personal study plans, often developed in consultation with a health or medical practitioner, and use special consideration as a safety net.

Disability Services Officers

All students with an academic plan will be assigned a Disability Service Officer who will liaise with their faculty or school to ensure their adjustments are in place and helpful for the student. Disability Service Officers do not provide counselling or case management and cannot intervene on matters of academic appeal or leniency. Contact us for assistance with an academic appeal or a complaint.

Faculty Disability Liaison Officers (FDLO)

Each faculty has a designated Faculty Disability Liason Officer (FDLO). An FDLO can offer quick advice on what the faculty can provide to support your learning environment. You do not need to register with Disability Services or have an academic plan to access your FDLO – they are available for all students.

How to register with Disability Services

Current students can register online.

You will need to get your health professional to fill out a supporting documentation form that you can then either upload, email, or take with you to your appointment.

Your registration is completed by attending an appointment with a Disability Services Officer. Your disability and health information are  confidential and Disability Services can only discuss your academic plan and adjustments when communicating with your faculty or the University.

Disability rights

The University has a positive duty to promote the full inclusion and participation of students who have disabilities. Australian and NSW law prevents unlawful discrimination against people with disabilities in areas such as:

  • employment
  • education
  • access to public premises.

Visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website for the full definition of disability discrimination and disability rights.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005, universities and training providers are obliged to ensure that students with disabilities can access and participate in university study. The University of Sydney’s commitment to equal opportunity of learning is set out in the Disability Inclusion Action Plan.

Despite these laws and public commitments by the University, many students with disabilities continue to experience discrimination, and for this reason prefer to not disclose their disabilities to teachers or peers.

It is important to note that the University does not make registration with Disability Services a requirement for enrolment. Registering with Disability Services is always your choice. You are not required to disclose your disability or condition to your faculty or school – even when responding to a Show Good Cause notification or, for HDR students, in a progressmeeting. However, in certain situations disclosure may benefit you. Contact us for advice.

SUPRA’s Disabilities Officer, Disability and Inclusion Network, and SRC Disabilities Collective

One of SUPRA’s seven designated equity officers is our Disabilities Officer. This is an identified position, meaning that the person who holds it must identify as having a disability. The Disabilities Officer, along with the Disabilities Collective, organises events and engages in advocacy for postgraduate students with disabilities across the University of Sydney.

The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) Disabilities Collective and SUPRA Disability and Inclusion Network have collaborated to make a handbook to guide you through the support and resources available at Usyd for disabled students, students who have conditions, illnesses or experiences that count as disabilities under Australian definitions but might not use that term personally, and allies.

Download the Accessibility Handbook [PDF, 11MB].

Contact SUPRA’s Disabilities Officer:

What you can do if you think you’ve been discriminated against because of your disabiltiy.

You have a right to submit a complaint to the University; to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board; or to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

We can assist you with any concerns you have and can help you submit a complaint. Contact us for advice.

Read our complaints article for further information.

Privacy and disclosure

The University of Sydney is bound by state law, and by University policies, to protect your personal information. Even when your academic plan is shared with your subject coordinators, it does not include your diagnoses or other personal details; instead, it focuses on the accommodations you require as a part of your plan. The University cannot share your personal information with any other person or agency without your consent.

The only time your information may be shared within the University is if you disclose information to a Disability Services officer which leads them to believe you are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else. In such a situation, your name, contact information and will be disclosed to the Wellbeing Unit.

Your personal information is protected under the following policies:

Further support

People With Disability Australia (PWDA) 
PWDA provides information to people with disabilities and their associates, and assesses requests for advocacy support.

1800 843 929 (toll free)


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Written by SUPRA Postgraduate Advocacy Service July 2023

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