Supporting disabled learners: what about physiotherapy course admissions?

To create a physiotherapy profession that reflects the diversity in society, it is essential that we enable disabled people to access pre-registration education

Physiotherapy as a profession is primarily focused on enablement and a proactive approach.  

As therapists, we work with disabled people empowering them to be the best they can be, so all I ask is that they treat applicants with the same respect

Iona Bateman CSP disAbility network vice-chair and former student officer
Woman stands in front of small audience

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for universities and colleges to discriminate against or victimise applicants during the admissions cycle. In addressing potential issues, learners can expect universities to ensure that: 

  • There is inclusive access to university and course information such as availability in multiple formats, easy to read web-based information and videos with text captioning are a few examples. This should also be a consideration within admissions processes such as interviews.
  • Inclusivity has been considered with the planning and delivering of open days and department tours
  • There are clear policies to support inclusion such as outlining any occupational health checks and their purpose, and access to student support.
  • There is a provision embedded to enable individual choice such as offering in-person or face to face interviews for admission selection.

The Higher Education Commission acknowledge that the potential for disability discrimination can be particularly high in relation to the declaration and screening of medical or health-related requirements for certain courses.

Watch the journey of a physiotherapy student with rheumatoid arthritis

Unless it can be demonstrated that the medical/ health requirements of potential candidates are proportionate with achieving the aim of the course, it may result in disability discrimination.

Practices such as using timed written tests, scoring communication skills based on eye contact or stating that admissions are subject to passing occupational health assessment without considering individual capabilities, are all examples of discriminatory processes.  

Reasonable adjustments to admissions processes should include having measures to enable applicants to demonstrate their ability to meet course requirements.

Also, whilst there may be an inclusive and standarised admissions process in place, there should always be the built-in flexibility to consider disabled people’s requirements on a case-by-case basis. 

Guidance from Advance HE recommends that course entry requirements should be regularly reviewed to ensure they are not indirectly discriminating against people with a particular protected characteristic and that use of an equality impact assessment (or an equivalent process) is a useful tool to determine this. 

If you are interested in applying for a physiotherapy course we would encourage you to speak with the course admissions tutor or university staff early on in the process.

Last reviewed: