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Help in meeting needs of disabled

You rightly highlighted in FE Focus ("Warning of law suits over disabled access", TES, March 1) that the introduction of part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in September 2002 is exercising the minds of colleges and higher education institutions.

However, it is in the Learning and Skills Council's remit to provide education for learners with disabilities andor learning difficulties. Young people and adults with profound and complex learning difficulties were previously excluded under Schedule 2J and the Further Education Funding Council had no legal responsibility to provide for them. The passing of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 removed this barrier.

The research undertaken by the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, and Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities provides staff development materials and guidance for working with learners who experience the most severe learning and communication difficulties and may have additional disabilities such as mobility impairments. We look to Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs) and colleges to take this opportunity to use these resources, to deliver high-quality learning opportunities to this previously excluded group.

Skill welcomes the focus on the responsibilities of colleges not to discriminate against disabled students under the DDA and has information on this. Skill also recognises that, to ensure that this group of learners have access to education provison which meets their needs under the Learning and Skills Act, the 47 LSCs and colleges must adopt a flexible approach and encourage inter-agency working. In the article, the two issues were conflated, both merit more individual attention during the coming months.

Liz Maudslay

Policy director, Further Education

Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities www.skill.org.uk

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