Disability support

Australia supports and welcomes students of all abilities.

International students with a disability have the same legal rights and support services as local students in Australia.

What does Australia consider to be a disability?

A disability is any condition affecting a person’s body or mind. This can include: 

  • physical disability, such as, a loss of a body part or a failing part of the body
  • learning disability that affects the ability to take in, process and hold information
  • mental illness that may affect thought processes
  • sensory disability, such as hearing or vision loss
  • neurological disability that can affect the brain and central nervous system, or
  • disease or illness.

Australia supports students of all abilities

In Australia, an estimated 380,000 children aged 5–18 years with a disability go to primary or secondary school. In 2022, 187,000 people aged 15–64 years with a disability were studying for a tertiary level qualification.

Laws prohibit discrimination in Australia 

In Australia, it is against the law to discriminate against someone based on disability, according to:

International students with a disability have equal rights to live, work and study in Australia. 

If you have a disability, it’s against the law for education providers to:

  • refuse your admission
  • not provide support services
  • ask you to meet unfair conditions, such as paying higher fees than other students.
  • deny or limit your access to experiences, such as excursions, or learning spaces you can’t access, like, lecture theatres with stairs and no lift (elevator). 

However, there are situations where places of study cannot meet every need. This may include where the cost of making changes is very high, or if a change is hard to make. 

If this applies, the education provider must: 

  • talk with you directly about the change
  • get expert advice
  • tell you why the requests for change are not possible.

Applying for a course with a disability

Each university or TAFE has a: 

If you a future or current student, you can ask an adviser for a private chat. They will be able to tell you about what support services are on offer. They can also tell you what documents you may need to apply for a course. 

When to tell your place of study

Often, you don’t need to tell your education provider about your disability. Only, if it is likely to risk your safety or affect your ability to meet course conditions. Do you need changes made on-campus? This is when you will need to make known about your disability. 

Find out more about sharing your disability or health condition

How to get the support and adjustments you need

Many universities, TAFEs and schools will meet your needs by making changes. These can include buildings having ramps added; software that recognises your voice; or note-taking services. 

If you think you’ll need changes made on-campus or extra learning support, you should contact the disability adviser at your place of study as soon as possible. You can do this when you apply and before you start studying. You can also ask for help any time during your studies.

Your disability advisor can help you get the help you need on campus, including

  • Changes to buildings or systems, like making areas wheelchair accessible, or enabling devices to support hearing implants.
  • Academic changes like extra time for you to complete classwork and/or exams.
  • Counselling services to support you if you’re feeling stressed or worried. 

What to do if you experience discrimination 

You may feel your treatment is unfair. If so, you firstly can try to solve the problem directly with your education provider. If this fails, you can make a formal complaint.

Education providers must have a process for students to place complaints. This is the law. You can also get additional help to solve your complaint quickly.

Do you want action? You must lodge a formal complaint in writing. But, in the first instance, you can make a phone call to have a private chat.

Find out more about how to manage your complaints. Including contact details:

Disability services and support

There are many support services available in every state and territory of Australia. Some of them include:

You can search also online for social groups for people with similar disabilities in your area, find out what disability sports are happening near you.

In Australia, students, workers and people of all abilities contribute to society in meaningful ways. We’re looking forward to welcoming you!