This section is focussing on supporting a student with a disability/impairment/medical condition and how to develop strategies to identify and address barriers.

It is essential that you are familiar with your organisation's Policies and Procedures in relation to this topic. Please also read the MANDATORY REPORTING section of this website.



“The need to disclose, when to disclose, how to disclose, as well as a person’s rights and responsibilities regarding disclosure, are issues faced by most students who have a disability or medical condition. In general terms, there is no legal obligation for a student to disclose their disability to an institution unless it is likely to affect their performance to meet the requirements of the course which will result in their need to access support services.” (“Choosing Your Path – Disclosure: It’s a Personal Decision”, Mungovan & Quigley, 2003 as cited by Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training, 2013).

“Where a student has not disclosed a disability, teaching and other staff are not responsible for providing education related adjustments (Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training, 2013).”

It is the Clinical Educator’s responsibility to be aware that all disclosures made to them by their student are confidential unless the student gives you direct permission to discuss with another named party (e.g. the University representative). The only time this is altered is in regards to Mandatory Reporting Obligations.


Supporting the Student

Hantula and Reilly (1996, as cited in Siggins Miller 2012) define effective supervision of a student with an impairment as “supervisory and management practices or systems which maximise individual performance and protect the dignity of the individual” (Hantula & Reilly 1996, 114).

Taube and Olkin, 2011 (as cited in Siggins Miller, 2012) have identified the following as barriers to supervising students with a disability/impairment:

  • structural needs (access to books on tape, Braille and wheelchair accessible facilities)
  • policy and procedural issues (such as extra time for assignments and completion of training)
  • treatment by instructors and peers (whether the student is accepted as a valid participant in clinical placement).

Communication is the essential element when identifying and developing strategies to address barriers to the placement especially the initial preparation for placement including discussing any potential issues with a student and developing a plan to address these which is reviewed throughout the placement (Cooley & Salvaggio 2002; Morris & Turnbull 2007 as cited in Siggins Miller 2012).  The student is often the best resource when determining any barriers that might exist and potential strategies to overcome these barriers. The university placement coordinator will play a vital role in assisting you to develop strategies.

The Tool for Educators located within the Managing Difficult Situations of this website can be a valuable tool to utilise as a framework for this process.

Unfortunately, you may not have the ability to address certain barriers. If upon completion of a Risk Assessment you decide that you are unable to continue or offer the placement due to Occupational Health and Safety Issues, it is important this is identified as early as possible and communicated thoroughly to the university and student.

Always remember, students with disabilities can offer a unique perspective of the placement experience, provide useful information to the organisation about working with people with disabilities and assist in raising awareness and reducing barriers (Cooley & Salvaggio 2002).


  • Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (2013). Disclosure of Disability. Retrieved from:
  • Australian Learning and Teaching Council (2010). A guide to supervision in social work field education. Retrieved from:
  • Siggins Miller Consultants (2012). Promoting quality in clinical placements: Literature review and national stakeholder consultation. Adelaide: Health Workforce Australia. Retrieved from:


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