Management Responsibilities Toolkit Preparation

Complaint and appeal policies and procedures


Policies and procedures exist to deal with complaints arising directly or indirectly from disabled learners and tauira. These are accessible and communicated effectively to the disabled learners.

Best practice standards

  1. Policies and procedures established in relation to learner complaints, appeals, harassment and disciplinary procedures cover impairment issues.
  2. Disabled learners receive these policies and procedures in an appropriate manner and format and are aware of their right to have an independent advocate.

"Ticked the box for disability, no one is checking in on you to see what support was needed.”

“Unless you are really brave and can advocate for yourself time and time again, you just give up in the end.”

Some learners fear being punished for making a complaint or asking for help: “A lot of disabled people don’t trust the system because there is that fear of discrimination there, it’s always in your mind.”

- Current Disabled Learners.


“Sometimes a diagnosis can help inform the kinds of support that might be appropriate and the funding arrangements around that. But I think the danger is that we’ve become too tied up in: ‘You must have a medical certificate before you can go to a tertiary institution and get support’ … Someone’s not going to pretend that they need something. There has to be a degree of trust and respect. And sometimes disabled people don’t get that respect.”

- Disability Community Staff Member.

Ideas and resources to consider

  • A review of the complaint and appeal policies and procedures should assess whether:
    • Disabled learners are treated in a non-discriminatory manner and receive appropriate impairment support. - Issues are resolved in a timely and effective fashion.
    • Disabled learners know that an independent advocate can accompany them. For example, a student advocate or one from the local Health and Disability Consumer Advocacy Service.
    • Services are delivered in a culturally appropriate manner for Māori disabled learners, other ethnic and diverse groups, international learners, etc.
    • There is adherence to relevant legislation and protocols of confidentiality.
    • Expert impairment advice has been used appropriately.
    • Staff have sufficient training to fulfil this task in relation to disabled learners.
  • Ensure that learners have an outlet to which they may appeal in the event that there are disagreements on the provision of accommodations. Any appeals committee should be knowledgeable on the subject matter and impartial.5

Engaging disabled learners

It is important to check with disabled learners through focus groups and engagement surveys to find out if they think complaints and appeal policies and procedures are being implemented fairly. Ask for their ideas for effective service improvement.

What you need to know

Key themes from the special interest groups about complaint and appeals:

“Would be good to encourage more connection between disabled learners and for student associations to have an advocacy role for disabled learners.”

A new disabled students association is starting up; some (providers) don’t actually have disabled learners in their student associations … they should be encouraged to have learners empowered to engage with them about disability – there will be more buy-in from senior leadership if there is a stronger disabled learner-led awareness.

“Would be useful to have support for helping disabled learners to develop self-advocacy skills.”

“I’m quite strong in my own self- advocacy, but a lot of people aren’t.”

- Current Disabled Learners.

Examples of good practice

It is important that disabled learners are aware that appeal processes exist and they know where to get this information in an accessible format, and how to seek support with implementing these processes.

Examples of bad practice

It is important not to exclude learners on the grounds of impairment, without justification. For example, a learner admits himself to hospital during the holidays because of an ongoing mental illness. Staff hear about this and the tertiary institution excludes the learner because staff fear he may be dangerous. The tertiary institution has no evidence to suggest this and this would be unlawful.6

Useful networks and links

5. Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Institutions, NEADS, 2012, pg 11

6. The Disability Rights Commission. (2003). Code of practice for providers of post 16 education and related services - Legal rights and requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995: Part 4. pg.45.

This page is current as of May 2022 Print this page