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Defending claims of failing to make reasonable adjustments

All service providers have a statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments when a provision, criteria or practice/physical feature of their premises puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with others who are not disabled.

The duty is to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the individual being subjected to the disadvantage.

The aim of this duty is to ensure as far as is reasonably possible that disabled members of the community are not precluded from accessing all services that those who do not have their conditions are able to.

The duty recognises that this should include the removal of physical and non physical barriers encountered by disabled individuals to enable them to engage in access to services with as much ease as non disabled members of the community.


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What is deemed to be reasonable?

The test applied by the court is reasonableness. In gauging the reasonableness of a suggested adjustment to accommodate disabled service users, a number of factors including the nature of the organisation involved, their financial resources and the cost of the adjustment, will be considered. These factors will then be considered against the nature of the adjustment proposed and the extent of the disadvantage caused to the disabled individual due to the failure to implement the suggested amendment. The disadvantage caused to the service user will need to be proven to be more than minor or trivial.

If an adjustment is considered reasonable and your business failed to implement it, then they cannot rely on a defence to justify the failure.

The time limit within which an individual can bring a claim of this nature runs from the end of the period in which a business might reasonably have been expected to have done the thing omitted.

Defending a complaint or claim of failure to make reasonable adjustments

Where such a complaint is received from a client/service user, the best way to attempt to defend it, is to first investigate and gather as much evidence as possible to establish whether the business had knowledge of the individual’s disability, what adjustments were requested or would have been reasonable in the circumstances and whether there has been a failure to act reasonably. 

What if you identify a failure?

If your investigation reveals a failure on the business’ part, then you should undertake an immediate review of all preventative action which the business has taken to avoid service users being subjected to such detriment and whether due consideration was given to the provision of reasonable adjustments in the particular circumstances.

It is extremely important to seek specialist legal advice and assistance in dealing with complaints or claims of failures to make reasonable adjustments to minimise the potentially costly consequences of proceedings escalating and the reputational damage to your business. If your business has been accused of failing to make reasonable adjustments call our expert discrimination law team on 0161 696 6170.

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