The DDA requires ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be made by institutions in order to alleviate or remove the effects of a ‘substantial disadvantage’.
In practice this means you should do things differently if the usual way would substantially disadvantage a disabled person. Or it might mean providing additional services or equipment. Reasonable adjustments could include
What is deemed reasonable depends on the individual circumstances of the case, including how important the adjustment is, how practical it is, and the financial or other resources of the institution.
It is the financial resources of the institution as a whole and not the budget of an individual department or service area that counts.
The DDA does not override health and safety legislation - institutions are not required to make adjustments that would endanger the health and safety of the disabled person or of other people. However health and safety legislation must not be used spuriously to avoid making a reasonable adjustment.
Sometimes an adjustment for a disabled student would result in significant disadvantage for other people. In this case the institution would not be expected to undertake it. However, it is important to weigh the level of inconvenience to others against the substantial disadvantage to the disabled student.
Example - A disabled student requests a 5-minute break every 20 minutes, as after this amount of time she can no longer concentrate. The tutor feels that under these circumstances the course material could not be covered and other students would be substantially disadvantaged. In this case the adjustment of frequent breaks might not be made, but it might be reasonable instead to reduce the length of the lunch break and have a break every 45 minutes, and also to provide the disabled student with a tape of the sessions, or with full notes.
Example - A deaf student who uses a BSL interpreter is assigned to work in a small group. The other students in the group complain to the tutor that working with an interpreter takes longer and therefore they are being disadvantaged. In this case, while the work may take slightly longer, any disadvantage would be mild, and in fact by having to discuss ideas more formally, waiting for the interpreter and not speaking over each other, all the students may get a better opportunity to contribute.
An individual member of academic staff would not usually be asked to make the decision whether or not a proposed adjustment is reasonable. Your institution will have mechanisms for assessing students' needs and making these decisions. It is important that you find out how this decision-making process operates within your institution and that you examine the implications for your practice.
Any reasonable adjustments that you make for individual students are likely to be set within the framework of anticipatory adjustments that your institution has put in place. For example, within the context of your institution’s policy on accessible assessments (an anticipatory adjustment) you may give an individual student an extension to an assignment deadline (an individual adjustment).