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’. A duty is something someone must do, in this case because the law says they must.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments aims to make sure that if you are a disabled person, you can use an organisation’s services as close as it is reasonably possible to get to the standard usually offered to non-disabled people.
If an organisation providing goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public, or carrying out public functions, or running an association finds there are barriers to disabled people in the way it does things, then it must consider making adjustments (in other words, changes). If those adjustments are reasonable for that organisation to make, then it must make them.
The duty is ‘anticipatory’. This means an organisation cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use its 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.
An organisation is not required to do more than it is reasonable for it to do. What is reasonable for an organisation to do depends, among other factors, on its size and nature, and the nature of the goods, facilities or services it provides, or the public functions it carries out, or the association it runs.
If you are a disabled person and can show that there were barriers an organisation should have identified and reasonable adjustments it could have made, you can bring a claim against it in court. If you win your case, the organisation may be told to pay compensation and make the reasonable adjustments.
The rest of this section looks at the duty in more detail and gives examples of the sorts of adjustments organisations could make.
Last updated: 02 Dec 2019