I was doing some of my GCSE Law work today because I have to revise for my next assignment. I have just been going through ‘Contracts etc ‘. Admittedly, this particular part was dealing with contracts in regards to sales etc. However, the principal of a contract is an offer, acceptance, and agreement. This can relate to anything, not just sales of goods. As someone with additional needs, I am sure you’re all used to educational establishments drawing up individual type contracts for your proposed ‘support’. They make it feel like you have an obligation to sign any contract that they present in front of you. This isn’t the case. It isn’t a matter of choice because you’re going to have to strike some agreement to go forward in regards to ‘working with each other’.
I know it takes a hell of a lot of guts to say that you do not agree to those terms because they won’t work… but this is something that you can legally do and you must do it because you’ll get walked all over if you don’t dispute those terms. If I’d have known this when I had all the issues with the universities and some of my schools, then I’d have point blankly told them that the terms I was signing had to be modified because they wouldn’t work with my disability issues. They get around helping those with misunderstood additional needs by striking up contracts that they know you cannot do. They can then send you down disciplinary routes and subsequently get away with not providing adequate support and understanding. It gets the blame placed firmly on the one with additional needs instead of the establishment which has provided inadequate support and understanding. There has to be a balanced contract drawn up, including what both sides are expected to do. And also, remember that verbal acceptance also denotes acceptance of a contract. Therefore, you have to be extremely strong in those meetings where you are practically bullied by the other parties (who do not know what it’s like to have your issues). Do not even say ‘okay then’, because that is technically an agreement. I know that it is extremely difficult to do, however, you must stay in that room until you’re comfortable with the proposed offer. I can guarantee you that everyone in that room will want to go home at some point and they will get as tired. It is all about holding your own for as long as it may take.
Please be aware that you cannot dispute standard employment or education contracts. The above is specifically aimed at contracts they try to draw up for those with additional needs in the guise of ‘support packages’. These aren’t governed by set guidelines and can, therefore, be constructed to ensure that the establishment doesn’t get held to account if they refuse to support or understand the additional needs. In many cases, including my own, these contracts are drawn up to ensure that they can get rid of the person with additional needs, rather than supporting them, as they have drawn up the contract including things that they have identified as a skill that the person with additional needs is lacking. There have also been many cases, including aspects of my own, where a contract has been drawn up to make the person with additional needs fail because they know that the person cannot help being a certain way and they make that forbidden with the contract. It is important that we all stop agreeing to what is put in front of us without questioning the terms and conditions (which admittedly most of us never read because the small print is too difficult to read) because that is the only way that we can force change.