Duty to make reasonable adjustments
The University is required to take reasonable steps to ensure that disabled students can fully participate in the education and services provided for students. This means the University may be required to make 'reasonable adjustments'.
The reasonable adjustments duty is to avoid as far as possible “by reasonable means” the disadvantage which a disabled student experiences because of their disability. The duty requires the University to take positive steps to ensure that disabled students can fully participate in the education and other benefits, facilities and services provided for students.
The University is required to take reasonable steps
These reasonable steps are:
- Avoid substantial disadvantage where a provision, criterion or practice puts disabled students at a substantial disadvantage.
- Avoid substantial disadvantage, where a physical feature of the building or premises puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage; his includes removing the physical feature in question, altering it or providing a reasonable means of avoiding it
- Providing an auxiliary aid where without one, disabled students would be put at a substantial disadvantage.
Where the reasonable adjustment someone requires concerns provision of information, the steps it is reasonable to take include ensuring that the information is provided in an accessible format eg large print, digital format etc.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments is anticipatory
The duty to make reasonable adjustments is anticipatory and a continuing duty to what is owed to disabled students generally.
You ie the University should not wait until an individual disabled student approaches us before considering how to meet the duty. We should be planning ahead and anticipating the needs of disabled students and the adjustments they might need.
The Equality Act doesn’t state that we have to anticipate the needs of every prospective student, but the University is required to think about and take reasonable and proportionate steps to overcome barriers that may impede people with different kinds of disabilities.
What is reasonable?
It may be reasonable for the University to install a hearing loop system in all lecture theatres, but may not be reasonable to have a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter on the payroll.
The Student Disability Service acknowledges the use of the Equality and Human Rights Commission publication “What equality law means for you as an education provider - further and higher education”.