Alongside the requirement not to discriminate runs a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people(by virtue of s.20). This duty has three requirements:
- Firstly, where an institution’s provision criterion or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non disabled person, reasonable steps must be taken to avoid the disadvantage
- Secondly, where a physical feature (for example access to a building) substantially disadvantages a disabled person reasonable steps must be taken to avoid the disadvantage
- Thirdly, where provision of an auxiliary aid (or service) would prevent substantial disadvantage, reasonable steps should be taken to provide the aid.
Where the first or third requirements of the duty relate to provision of information, there is an express requirement in the Act (s.20(6)) that reasonable steps must be taken to provide information in an accessible format.
Although the basic principle remains the same, the duty to make reasonable adjustments does vary slightly depending on whether it is general service provision, education service provision, and employment and the specific requirements should be referred to as required. For example there is an anticipatory duty with regard to reasonable adjustments for students but not in relation to employment.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments should be revisited at regular intervals, as it is an ongoing duty, and further reasonable adjustments should be made in the light of experience gained and new forms of assistance (for example, the availability of new software). The overall aim is to remove where possible a disadvantage encountered by disabled people. Failure to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments in relation to a disabled person is an act of unlawful discrimination in terms of the Act (s.21)
A reasonable adjustment is measured against available resources, cost of adjustment, practicality and potential benefit to other users. More detail on this is available in the Equality Challenge Unit's publication ‘managing reasonable adjustments in higher education’.
Most colleges and universities currently make reasonable adjustments such as individual computer and special assistive software availability for an otherwise paper exam or provision of course materials, in alternative formats and further examples are available in the ‘managing reasonable adjustments in higher education’ publication above.