The short answer is that is unlawful for a public authority (and that includes academies and free schools) to discriminate against disabled people.
The rules relating to academies/free schools and discrimination generally are in another post. This post deals with the extra rules that relate to disability discrimination.
Section 85(6) of the Equality Act 2010 makes clear that, as well as being prohibited from ‘discriminating’, schools are also under an obligation to ‘make reasonable adjustments’. The detail of what that means is in sections 20-22 of the 2010 Act and schedule 13 of the 2010 Act. In summary, where something the school does puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled, it must take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage.
That includes things like adjusting classroom arrangements, school trips, teaching materials, discipline/exclusion policies, and so on – all aspects of school life must be scrutinised to see if they operate in a way which puts disabled pupils at a substantial disadvantage. And, if so, then reasonable adjustments must be made.
Note that the obligations arising from local authority ‘accessibility plans’ and ‘accessibility strategies’ (under Schedule 11 of the 2010 Act, do not apply in relation to academies/free schools.
It is also worth looking at the EHRC Code of Practice. Although it is still framed round the requirements of the previous legislation, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, it remains in force for now, and is still useful particularly in giving good examples of the sorts of things which schools might need to do by way of ‘reasonable adjustments’ – see the examples following page 54.
What if an academy has broken those requirements?
Parents can bring a claim to the SENDIST in relation to an academy/free school, just as they would for a maintained school.
What if the discrimination took place when the academy was still a maintained school?
There is a separate post on this topic.