In brief

The reasonable adjustments duty under the Equality Act 2010 is to avoid the disadvantage which a disabled person experiences because of their disability. For example, being unable to access a workplace because the building only has stairs and no ramps. Making reasonable adjustments are usually straight forward although people tend to still get confused about who is covered.

Public sector organisations must take positive steps to make sure that disabled people can fully participate and benefit from the facilities and services provided for all. It also means that it is a legal requirement for employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees. This guidance relates to England, Scotland and Wales.

What do I need to know about reasonable adjustments?

Avoid substantial disadvantage where a provision or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage. For example ensuring that information is provided in accessible formats such as large print, audible or Braille.

Where a physical feature puts disabled persons at a substantial disadvantage take action to mitigate this. For example this includes removing the physical feature in question, altering it or providing a reasonable means of avoiding it.

Provide an auxiliary aid where without one, disabled persons would be put at a substantial disadvantage. For example ensuring patients have access to a British Sign Language interpreter when they request it.

You cannot justify a failure to make a reasonable adjustment; where the duty arises, the issue is whether or not the adjustment is ‘reasonable’ and this is an objective question for the courts to ultimately determine. For example ensuring that guide and other asistance dogs are able to accompany their owners into most areas of a building and ensuring there are alternative arrangements in areas where this is not possible.

The reasonable adjustment duty is an anticipatory and a continuing one that you owe to disabled people generally, regardless of whether you know that a particular person is disabled or whether you currently have any disabled people in your employ or who use your service.

You should not wait until an individual disabled person approaches you before you consider how to meet the duty. Instead you should plan ahead and anticipate the requirements of disabled people and the adjustments that might need to be made for them. For example having hearing induction loops at reception areas in a hospital.

You are not expected to anticipate the needs of every person but you are required to think about and take reasonable and proportionate steps to overcome barriers that may impede people with different kinds of disabilities. For example providing enough space on a public bus for someone who uses a wheelchair.

Further reading

ACAS – Reasonable adjustments are often straight forward

Reasonable adjustments for disabled workers

Citizens Advice – Duty to make reasonable adjustments