Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people

Those responsible for managing communal areas of commercial properties must take positive steps to remove the barriers disabled people may face. This is to ensure disabled people 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.

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

The Equality Act 2010 says changes or adjustments should be made to ensure disabled people can access goods and services.

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:

  • an individual’s disability
  • how practicable the changes are
  • if the change asked for would overcome the disadvantage 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 organisations have to do?

There are three different things organisations may have to do make it easier for disabled people to access properties.

1. Change the way things are done
Some organisations may have a certain way of doing things which makes it more difficult for disabled people to access. 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 disabled people, unless it’s unreasonable to do so.

2.  Change a physical feature
Sometimes a physical feature of a building or other premises may make it more difficult for disabled people 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.

3. Provide extra aids or services
Sometimes disabled people may need particular aids or equipment to help them access or do something. Or disabled people 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 disabled people:

  • 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.

When do organisations have to do these things?

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