The government has launched a consultation on Auxiliary Aids as part of the new Equalities Act duties for schools:
Auxiliary Aids is what we would call AT, so this is important for BATA members. Below are some preliminary thoughts. We would love to hear members comments, preferably by 18th November, so that we can respond in time for the 5th Dec deadline.
Schools and LAs will no longer be exempted from the SENDA obligation to provide auxiliary aids including auxiliary services as reasonable adjustments.
"This consultation seeks responses on two main issues: firstly, the date when the new obligation should be brought into effect, including consideration of whether there are reasons why it should not be commenced at all, or should be commenced earlier or later than September 2012; secondly, whether regulations under section 22 of the Act would be necessary or desirable to define the extent of the obligation on schools and local authorities to provide auxiliary aids as part of their duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils. Regulations under section 22 could make provision as to the circumstances in which it is, or is not, reasonable for a school/local authority to have to take certain steps as part of the reasonable adjustments duty, or could set out things which are, or which are not, to be treated as auxiliary aids.
"We are also interested in obtaining more information about the circumstances, and number, of children who might currently be missing out on the provision of auxiliary aids and services because of the absence of the auxiliary aids requirement on schools and local authorities exercising their education functions."
There seems to be an assumption that if a child is statutorily disabled then they will have a SEN statement and this means that a student has AT. This is definitely not the case with dyslexia where children will usually only be on School Action or School Action Plus and will often not have AT.
The paper seems to be looking at physical disabilities (possibly severe LD) and is overlooking that SpLD is also covered by the DDA/EA.
"The Department also believes that the great majority of disabled children who need auxiliary aids and services will also already be receiving them through SEN statements and so it is likely that most things that disabled pupils might need, that would fall within the auxiliary aids requirement of the reasonable adjustments duty, are probably already largely being met through the SEN route.
Even for those disabled children who do not have SEN (or statements) the Department believes that many schools will already be making necessary reasonable adjustments to provide auxiliary aids and services for these disabled children perhaps without realising that this is what they are doing. For example, a school might have provided an adapted computer mouse or keyboard to a child with a physical handicap that made it difficult for them to use the standard equipment without considering whether this might be providing an auxiliary aid or service or making a reasonable adjustment."
Is this optimistic? Does a school have the knowledge of appropriate AT to know what the child should have – even assuming that the child has been properly diagnosed? Whilst special schools may have a good knowledge of Assistive Technologies this is not true of mainstream schools, where they will have much less specialist knowledge, even of visible disabilities. And for less visible dyslexia and literacy difficulties there is little knowledge of available technology or commitment to use it. More common is to use TA support, rather than encourage independent learning (and often save money) with AT. One could comment that the responsible person in schools is usually the SENCo, who is often a woman of an age that makes her less likely to be a digital native.
We should be referring to alternative formats projects such as the Dyslexia Action/RNIB Load2Learn in our response to ensure that they are adequately supported.