Management Responsibilities Toolkit Preparation

Policy and planning


All strategic planning, policies and procedures ensure disabled learners and tauira have equal opportunities for participation and achievement.

Best practice standards

  1. A disability policy to achieve a fully inclusive educational environment for disabled learners, is developed in partnership with disabled learners and disability support staff.
  2. A disability action plan to achieve a fully inclusive educational environment is developed in partnership with disabled learners and disability support staff, has measurable goals and targets, and is reviewed and reported on annually.
  3. All policies, procedures and planning processes take into consideration the participation and achievement of disabled learners in academic and other areas of the learning environment life.
  4. These policies and procedures guide the interaction between staff and disabled learners and are understood by staff.
  5. Senior management commitment and accountability for achieving the agreed strategic outcomes in the disability action plan is clearly defined, owned and resourced.
  6. Management systems provide accurate information about the participation, progression and achievement of disabled learners and identify barriers that impact on this with a view to continuous improvement.

“If you really want to move forward with inclusive practice [and] universal design, you need institutional commitment, you need the top [people] being willing to empower the bottom [people] in that space.”

- Staff Member, Tertiary Institution.


  • It is essential that the senior leadership of all tertiary providers at governance and management level identify and resolve barriers to participation and achievement of disabled learners in academic and other areas of the learning environment life. This should occur through strategic planning, development policies and procedures.
  • To assist with this, your disability action plan should:
    • Include objectives, performance indicators, accountabilities and timeframes so all involved are clear about what needs to be achieved, who is responsible for achieving it and by what date.
    • Be endorsed by council and driven by senior management in partnership with disabled learners, Māori disabled learners, key staff supporting disabled learners, and community representatives referring and supporting disabled learners.
    • Aim to remove barriers to participation, retention and achievement of disabled learners within the institution and meet their individual support needs.
  • Planning any major projects should consider the needs of disabled learners from the start. Planning includes consideration of the accessible journey and the design of buildings, course content, teaching practices, information provision, communication processes and support. This can avoid possible disruption and expense later.
  • Designated, trained contact(s) across the organisation can create effective channels for communication with senior managers when developing a disability action plan.

What you need to know

Some key themes from the special interest groups about policy and planning included:

Disability services and academic staff, universities and polytechnics

  • “Inclusion is not just something that should be left to one department. I think it should be focused university-wide.”
  • “Make awareness of disabling issues and challenges a learner-wide concern because everyone encounters some disabling issues in studying.”

Current disabled learners

  • “There is no systemic thought given to most issues that face disabled learners.”
  • “What I’d like to see, and it’s probably a longer-term vision, is that there be something from the top down around disability.”

Disability Services and academic staff, Tertiary Institutions and Polytechnics

  • “Many aren’t today’s problems, we were having these problems 20 years ago when the support money first came in, in 1998. The context may have changed but the core fundamentals have not changed – ‘Can I physically get to my lectures?’, ‘Can I access all the information I need?’, ‘Are reasonable accommodations actually possible and being made?’ – that justifies the need for there to be some degree of compulsion.”
  • “I like that TEC are wanting disability action plans … I would love to see that happen and that there’d be a celebration of the work that we do, of the learners that we engage with ...”
  • “Certainly there does need to be more education – or a change in culture, change in attitude – towards disability and towards our learners. And I think they need to be given more priority.”
  • “A plan makes people outside the institution more aware of what an institution is doing to support disabled learners and what checks and balances are in place.”

Disability Community Agency Staff

  • “There is a lack of commitment at leadership level within the institutions and it is having to be bottom-up [learner-driven]. The learners are having to fight for, effectively, their right to education ….”
  • “Sometimes it feels like we have to justify ourselves to the system. Whereas, the system is the problem, not us. Fix the system ….”

Engaging disabled learners

  • Learners with different impairments should participate in the development and review of the disability action plan and relevant policies, procedures, services and facilities.
  • Remember disabled learners may also experience additional barriers arising from membership of other equity groups.
  • Therefore wider conversations around diversity are important. For example, disabled learners who are Māori, Pacific people, Asian women, international learners, from LGBTQIA communities, migrants, at-risk youth, older people, etc.

Case studies

Useful networks and links

This page is current as of May 2022 Print this page