Creating reasonable adjustments for disabled people

Equality law recognises that bringing about equality for disabled people may mean changing the way in which services are delivered, providing extra equipment and/or the removal of physical barriers.

This is the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments aims to make sure that a disabled person can use a service as close as it is reasonably possible to get to the standard usually offered to non-disabled people.

When the duty arises, you are under a positive and proactive duty to take steps to remove or prevent these obstacles.

If you are providing goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public, or carrying out public functions, or running an association and you find there are barriers to disabled people in the way you do things, then you must consider making adjustments (in other words, changes). If those adjustments are reasonable for you and your organisation to make, then you must make them.

The duty is ‘anticipatory’. This means you cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use your services, but must think in advance (and on an ongoing basis) about what disabled people with a range of impairments might reasonably need, such as people who have a visual impairment, a hearing impairment, a mobility impairment or a learning disability.

Many of the adjustments you can make will not be particularly expensive, and you are not required to do more than it is reasonable for you to do. What is reasonable for you to do depends, among other factors, on the size and nature of your organisation and the nature of the goods, facilities or services you provide.

If, however, a disabled person can show that there were barriers you should have identified and reasonable adjustments you could have made, they can bring a claim against you in court, and you may be ordered to pay them compensation as well as make the reasonable adjustments.

As well as being something you are required by equality law to do, making reasonable adjustments will help a wider range of people use your services.

Once you have made a reasonable adjustment, don't forget to tell people about it. For example, put up a sign at your premises, include it in information you publish (make sure you provide alternative formats if appropriate) and put it on your website. This is not just because it will bring more customers; it is an essential part of meeting the duty. If the adjustment is not reasonably apparent to disabled people, they may still think they cannot use your services and in some circumstances this could mean you have not met the duty.

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Last Updated: 28 Sep 2015