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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
To determine if an adjustment is reasonable an education provider must properly consider:
- The barriers, needs or challenges confronting a student with a particular disability
- The views of the student or their Associate
- Whether the academic standards or essential requirements of an educational course are affected
- What benefits or disadvantages the adjustment might have on other people affected by it
- The costs and benefits of making the adjustment