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Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people

This advice applies to Scotland

Some people or organisations like employers, shops, local authorities and schools must take positive steps to remove the barriers you face because of your disability. This is to ensure you receive the same services, as far as this is 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 the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

What’s meant by the duty to make reasonable adjustments?

The Equality Act 2010 says changes or adjustments should be made to ensure you can access the following things if you’re disabled:

  • education
  • employment
  • housing
  • goods and services like shops, banks, cinemas, hospitals, council offices, leisure centres
  • associations and private clubs like the Scouts and Guides, private golf clubs and working men clubs.

Should you have to pay for the adjustments?

The Equality Act says you should never be asked to pay for the adjustments.

What’s meant by reasonable?

Adjustments only have to be made if it’s reasonable to do so. What's a reasonable thing to ask for depends on things like:

  • your disability
  • how practicable the changes are
  • if the change you ask for would overcome the disadvantage you and other disabled people experience
  • the size of the organisation
  • how much money and resources are available
  • the cost of making the changes
  • if any changes have already been made.

What do people or organisations have to do?

There are three different things people or organisations may have to do make it easier for you to access or do something.

Change the way things are done

Some people or organisations may have a certain way of doing things which makes it more difficult for you to access or do something. This could be a formal or informal policy, a rule or a practice. It could also be a one-off decision. The Equality Act calls this a provision, criterion or practice.

The organisation should change these things if they are a barrier for you, unless it’s unreasonable to do so.

Example

Your university has a policy of only allowing students to park in allocated student car parks. You have a mobility impairment which means you need to be able to park close to where your classes are. This isn’t always possible as the allocated car parks are situated on one side only of the campus. Allowing you to park in designated parking spaces on all of the campus is likely to be a reasonable adjustment to their parking policy so that you can attend your classes.

Change a physical feature

Sometimes a physical feature of a building or other premises may make it more difficult for you to access or use it.

Here are examples of physical features which it might be possible to change:

  • steps and stairs
  • passageways and paths
  • entrances and exits
  • internal and external doors
  • toilets
  • signs
  • lighting and ventilation
  • the size of premises.

The kind of adjustments which could be made includes removing, changing or providing a way of avoiding the physical feature, where it’s reasonable to do so.

Here are examples of reasonable adjustments:

  • providing ramps and stairway lifts
  • making doorways wider
  • installing automatic doors
  • providing more lighting and clearer signs.

Provide extra aids or services

Sometimes you may need particular aids or equipment to help you access or do something. Or you may need additional services. The Equality Act calls this auxiliary aids and services.

Here are examples of auxiliary aids and services which could be provided to help you:

  • a portable induction loop for people with hearing aids
  • BSL interpreters
  • providing information in alternative formats, such as Braille or audio CD’s
  • extra staff assistance.

Example

A solicitor offers to come and meet you at your home as you have severe agoraphobia and find it difficult to leave your home. Normally, they only make appointments at the office. The solicitor provides you with an extra service under their duty to provide reasonable adjustments.

When do people have to do these things?

The Equality Act says there's a duty to make reasonable adjustments if you’re placed at a substantial disadvantage because of you disability compared to non-disabled people or people who don't share your disability. Substantial means more than minor or trivial.

Example

You're deaf and are being interviewed at the police station. Your first language is BSL and need an interpreter to communicate with the police officer as he doesn't know BSL. Your disability places you at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who's not deaf and who can communicate in English. The police officer should therefore use a BSL interpreter when interviewing you.

What happens if someone doesn’t cooperate with the duty to make reasonable adjustments?

If someone doesn’t cooperate with their duty to make reasonable adjustments, the Equality Act says it’s unlawful discrimination. You can ask the person or organisation to make the necessary changes. If they refuse, you can make a discrimination claim under the Equality Act.

Next steps

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)

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