The Equality Act 2010, which incorporates* and builds upon the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA), makes it unlawful to discriminate against students of any age on the grounds of disability.
(*The provisions introduced into the Disability Discrimination Act by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 have been repealed, as they have been replaced by the provisions in the Equality Act 2010. However, the provisions SENDA introduced into the Education Act 1996 in relation to Special Educational Needs in schools still remain in force.)
Definition of disability
The Act defines disability as: “a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. ‘Substantial’ means more than minor or trivial. ‘Impairment’ covers, for example, long-term medical conditions and fluctuating or progressive conditions.”
Children, young people and adults who have M.E. do not necessarily look ill.
However, as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence acknowledges, “The physical symptoms can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and other chronic conditions” and “Fluctuating activity levels and symptoms are a common feature.”
Children with M.E. may have special educational needs.
You must take reasonable steps to ensure that they are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to others.
Read the Department for Education / Department of Health’s National Service Framework for CFS/M.E. (also known as Megan’s journey) and our tips on giving support.
Make sure your Educational Welfare Officer is informed that you have a pupil with M.E.
Further and higher education
Action for M.E. is developing an online hub for students with M.E., which should prove useful.
Meanwhile, please follow your organisation’s guidelines for disabled students.
With help from the Access Unit at the University of Bristol, we've produced a factsheet for staff, which you may find useful.