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Discrimination in the provision of goods and services - duty to make reasonable adjustments

Traders and service providers must remove the barriers you face because of your disability so you can access and use their goods and services in the same way, as far as this possible, as someone who's not disabled. The Equality Act 2010 calls this the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Read this page to find out more about traders’ and service providers’ duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Top tips

As well as being protected against discrimination, you have other rights under consumer law. If you’ve been treated unfairly but it doesn’t count as discrimination, there may be other ways of sorting out the problem.

See our consumer pages for more information.

When must a trader or service provider make reasonable adjustments?

Traders and service providers must make adjustments if:

  • you’re disadvantaged by something because of your disability, and
  • it’s reasonable to make the changes to remove the disadvantage.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments in goods and services is anticipatory. This means the trader or service provider mustn’t wait for you to ask them to do something. They should consider in advance what they need to do to make their services accessible to all their disabled customers.

When is something reasonable?

What's a reasonable step to ask for can vary and will depend on things like:

  • your disability
  • the size and resources of the business
  • the type of service you want to use
  • how practicable the changes are
  • if the change you ask for would overcome the disadvantage you and other disabled people experience
  • if the change is what's needed or is more than necessary.

What must a trader or service provider do?

Change the way things are done

A trader or service provider may have a certain way of doing things, like a policy, rule or practice which makes it more difficult for you to access or use their services. The Equality Act calls these things provisions, criterions and practices. You can ask the trader or service provider to change these things, if it’s reasonable to do so.

Examples of rules or polices which you might ask to change include:

  • appointment booking systems
  • how a business communicates with you - in writing, on the phone or online
  • application processes - for example, if you want to apply for a bank loan or switch to a new energy provider
  • a blanket policy - for example, one that disadvantages you if have a learning difficulty.

Example

You're visually impaired and ask a phone shop assistant to provide a copy of an instruction manual for a new smartphone in large print. The assistant refuses, saying it's accessible online. A reasonable adjustment would be to print the manual in the shop in a larger font.

Change a physical feature

Sometimes the physical features of a building - for example, steps, doors or passageways, may make it more difficult for you to access or use it.

A trader or service provider must remove, change or provide a reasonable way of avoiding the barrier, if it’s reasonable to do so.

This could be - for example:

  • installing a ramp or lift
  • having a temporary ramp available when needed
  • installing a doorbell for customers to ring for assistance
  • widening doorways or removing display units
  • installing disabled toilets
  • reserving disabled parking spaces near the entrance to the shop.

Example

You're disabled and can’t access your local bank branch because of steps leading up to the entrance. The bank has offered for staff to come out and serve you on the street as they don’t want to adapt the building.

This may not be enough to comply with their duty under the Equality Act. They should install a ramp or stairlift to enable you and other disabled customers to use their branch in the same way as their non-disabled customers.

Provide extra aids or services

Sometimes you may need particular aids or equipment so you can access or use goods or services. The Equality Act calls these auxiliary aids and services.

Examples of auxiliary aids and services include:

  • a portable induction loop for people with hearing aids
  • BSL interpreters
  • providing information in alternative formats, such as Braille, large text or audio CDs
  • extra staff assistance - for example, taking extra time to explain something or provide face to face services if you can’t use the internet or phone.

Example

You're deaf and your first language is BSL. You want to talk to your bank about opening a savings account. The bank provides a BSL interpreter when you go in and talk to them. This is a reasonable adjustment for the bank to make.

What can you do if you face barriers when you want to access goods and services?

You can ask the trader or service provider to make the necessary changes so you can access or use their services. If a service provider refuses to make reasonable adjustments, it’s unlawful discrimination and you can challenge it and take action under the Equality Act.

Limits on the duty to make reasonable adjustments

The trader or service provider doesn’t have to change things if this would fundamentally change the nature of the service they offer. For example, a restaurant which offers a dining in the dark experience could refuse to leave the lights on for a deaf customer who needs to be able to lip read to communicate.

Next steps

You can find more information about your consumer rights in the consumer section:

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

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