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Communtity Law Manual | Disability rights | Your rights at private educational institutions

Education: Access and learning support for disabled and Deaf students

Your rights at private educational institutions

Disability discrimination in private education is illegal

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 21(1)(h), 57, 60

The law is clear that private educational institutions can’t discriminate against you on the grounds of disability and that if they do you can complain to the Human Rights Commission, and potentially take your case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

This includes all private tertiary institutions, fully private schools (but not integrated schools), and, for example, places offering after-school or night classes in gymnastics, piano, swimming and so on.

Specifically, the law says that all these private education providers can’t:

  • refuse or fail to admit you as a student
  • admit you on less favourable terms and conditions than other people
  • deny or restrict your access to any benefits or services
  • exclude you or subject you to any other kind of disadvantage (“detriment”).

Exceptions that allows disability discrimination in private education

Human Rights Act 1993, s 60

There are only two legal exceptions:

  • a private education provider can discriminate if your impairment means you need special services or facilities to be able to participate in the education that are beyond what’s reasonable in the circumstances
  • they can discriminate if it’s because admitting you would be too risky to anyone’s health and safety, including your own.

What can I do if I’m discriminated against in private education?

If you experience discrimination because of a disability, you can remind the organisation or teacher that they have obligations under the Human Rights Act 1993, and repeat your request for enrolment, or whatever you are asking for.

If that doesn’t work, or if you would rather not speak to the person directly, you can go straight to the Human Rights Commission. It’s their job to help resolve the problem, and they will guide you through the process. See their website for more information at

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