Obligation to make reasonable adjustments

Obligation to make reasonable adjustments Obligation to make reasonable adjustments

Adjustments are the things that education providers do that allow people with disabilities to take part in Education on the same basis as other students. For example providing interpreters or note takers for deaf students or providing extra time for exams.

If an adjustment can be made to allow a student with disability to participate in education on the same basis as other students and it is reasonable, then the education provider must make that adjustment. If they don't make it, they will be acting against the law. However if an adjustment is judged to be unreasonable an Education Provider is not required to make it even if it means a person will not be able to enrol in a course or school.

If an adjustment is reasonable then the education provider has an obligation to make it, unless it causes it unjustifiable hardship. We talk about that in the part of the 'Exceptions' section called 'Unjustifiable Hardship'.

The education provider also has an obligation to make the adjustment in a reasonable amount of time.

If the adjustment is not reasonable, the education provider is not required to make it even if this would mean the student is prevented from participating in an educational course or enrolling at a school.

How do you work out whether an adjustment is reasonable?

In deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable an education provider must look at the benefits and disadvantages of an adjustment. The following points need to be considered in deciding if an adjustment is reasonable or not.

  1. In considering if an adjustment is reasonable, the education provider must consider the views of the student with disability and their Associates. The education provider must think seriously about that adjustment suggested by a student or their Associates. If it decides not to make adjustments suggested by students and their Associates, it should give the student written reasons as to why. If a complaint of discrimination is made to HREOC about this refusal, then the education provider will have to show reasons why they considered that particular adjustment was not reasonable and refused it.
  2. The education provider must think of the effect of the adjustment on all people who will be affected by it. This includes the effect not only on the student with disability, but also on the education provider themselves, the staff and other students. For example, re-locating a class to a student's home, far away from the main classroom and school, may benefit the student with disability but would be a disadvantage for the other students and might cost the school a lot of money. This adjustment would not be reasonable.
  3. For an adjustment to be reasonable it must genuinely allow the person to participate in education on the same basis as other students. For example, if a student who uses a wheelchair asks her school to build an accessible toilet and the school builds it, but in a building that isn't inaccessible for people in wheelchairs this will not be reasonable. This is because the adjustment doesn't achieve its purpose - that is, to make the toilets fully accessible.
  4. For an adjustment to be reasonable it must not affect the academic standards or essential requirements of an educational course. education providers are allowed to protect the academic standards and essential requirements of an educational course when considering adjustments. This means that a certificate or award given to a student on completion of the course is proof that they have the appropriate knowledge and skills for that course. An adjustment will not be reasonable if it damages the academic standards of a course or removes an essential requirement of a course.
  5. An adjustment needs to be made in a reasonable amount of time. For example a vision impaired student must receive large print copies of text in enough time to enable them to participate in classes and assessments on an equal basis.
  6. For adjustments to be reasonable education providers must show that they have reviewed the adjustment and whether it is working properly. Sometimes a student might have a condition like Multiple Sclerosis that gets worse over time. Adjustments in such cases might have to change as the course progresses.

In summary:

To determine if an adjustment is reasonable an education provider must properly consider:

Case Studies

James - Adjustments that don't affect the academic standards of a course

Case Study - James Case Study - James

A drama school runs a course for people who want to write reviews about plays. The course requires students to watch and make comments on a number of plays. A blind man, James, wants to participate in this course, but he is told he can't because he can't physically see the plays. James points out that many blind people enjoy attending plays and would benefit from reviews from another blind person. He provides examples of his experiences from listening to plays and following what is happening with help from a script that has stage directions.

After consultation, the drama school apologises and agrees to adjust its policy. The school acknowledges that theatre can be experienced and reviewed on many different levels and that a blind person's experiences are as important and relevant as those of people who are not blind. For that reason James' participation is consistent with the purpose of the course and maintains the course's academic standards.

Fiona - Consulting and working together to find adjustments and solutions to help students participate

Case Study - Fiona Case Study - Kate

Kate and her daughter Fiona have moved to a country town. Fiona has an intellectual disability and sometimes has difficult behaviour, like yelling out in class. The country town has only one public school.

When Kate tells the school about her daughter's disability the principal refuses to accept Fiona's enrolment as a student. Kate writes a letter to the principal telling her that she thinks this is unfair, especially when the principal won't provide written reasons for the refusal. Kate says she will be making a complaint to HREOC if the principal doesn't do something about it.

The principal organises a meeting with Kate and Fiona. During that meeting they discuss some of the challenges that Fiona's disability might create in the classroom. The principal agrees to have a teacher with special training come and look at the school and make recommendations on how these challenges might be overcome by adjustments.

After these recommendations Kate suggests to the principal that Fiona should be allowed to come to school on a three month trial basis. The principal agrees. In the first few weeks there are many problems and Fiona often refuses to stay in class, especially in English. After another meeting with Kate and Fiona, the principal agrees that a teacher's aide could sit with Fiona in her English class to provide support.

With the help of the teacher's aide Fiona is fine. Gradually, the time the teacher's aide spends with Fiona is less and less, until they only have to meet once a week to talk about how Fiona is going. Fiona is accepted as a full-time student at the end of the three month trial.