What makes an adjustment unreasonable and inappropriate
One of the key factors in deciding if an adjustment is “reasonable” is whether it is effective at reducing the “substantial disadvantage” a disabled person is put at, compared to someone without that disability.
Access options which are unsafe or undignified are not effective, and a poorer service compared to non-disabled service users is not reasonable.
Common examples of unsafe, inappropriate or inferior service include:
- Staff wanting to lift a wheelchair user up one or more steps into a building.
- Providing an unsafe ramp such as a bit of wood or channel-ramps.
- Denying assistance dogs entry and insisting they’re left somewhere else.
- Serving a disabled person outside the premises instead of providing access.
- Insisting a disabled person should have to ask for assistance when it’s possible to provide independent access.
Dealing with unsafe situations
We know for example that visually impaired people or wheelchair users may get grabbed unsafely on a regular basis, as shown by Amy Kavanagh’s #JustAskDontGrab campaign. If someone is putting you at immediate harm, you don’t have to remain polite, it is reasonable to shout “No!” or “Don’t do that!” or similar things in a loud manner, or physically move yourself away.
While it isn’t always easy or possible to deal with unsafe situations or demand resolutions, if you experience a type of issue regularly, you may wish to read our ‘asserting yourself during discrimination’ page for ideas.
Trying to lift someone in their wheelchair, for example, is very unsafe. If a Service Provider’s staff try to do this, you can try asking questions such as:
- “Are you and your business going to accept legal liability, or have insurance for any injury to me or damage to my wheelchair?”
- “What training have your staff had in lifting wheelchair users safely?”
At the time, or in a post-event complaint, you may wish to ask for:
- Copies of the organisation’s lifting and handling policies for lifting a disabled person
- Information about what training staff are given about disability
It is likely that an employee carrying out inappropriate lifting would not be covered by the employer’s insurance policy if they were injured. Even organisations which provide medical and personal care services often have no-lifting policies, and require staff to be trained to use specialist hoists to make lifting people safe for the staff.
Information to use in a complaint
Health and Safety Executive and legislation
You can cite:
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1992)‘
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) pages which says over a third of workplace injuries are caused by manual handling.
Unwanted grabbing of a mobility aid
If you or your mobility aid (wheelchair, long-cane, crutches etc) have been grabbed without your consent, you may find Esther Leighton’s (non binding) County Court judgments have useful legal wording and ideas to use to describe unsafe and undignified experiences with Service Providers. The judgements also include information about expanding unsafe treatment into upheld harassment complaints. Good intentions don’t reduce the impact of the treatment, although you will have to spell out why the behaviour counts as harassment, to your respondent and in any legal papers at length.
Standard of adjustment
In the binding Court of Appeal cases
- Roads v Central Trains (known as Roads paragraph 30 says:
"Secondly, the policy of the DDA is not a minimalist policy of simply ensuring that some access is available to the disabled: it is, so far as reasonably practicable, to approximate the access enjoyed by disabled persons to that enjoyed by the rest of the public."
- Royal Bank of Scotland v Allen (known as Allen) judgment paragraphs 25-30 discuss the nature of services offered to the public at large, the non-reasonableness of offering a disabled person an inferior service where it is ‘reasonable’ to offer an experience similar to that a non-disabled person would experience. It also refers to the quote about minimalist policy from Roads.
Codes of Practice references
As a result of Roads and Allen the Equality Act Code of Practice at paragraph 7.4 says:
"The policy of the Act is not a minimalist policy of simply ensuring that some access is available to disabled people; it is, so far as is reasonably practicable, to approximate the access enjoyed by disabled people to that enjoyed by the rest of the public. The purpose of the duty to make reasonable adjustments is to provide access to a service as close as it is reasonably possible to get to the standard normally offered to the public at large (and their equivalents in relation to associations or the exercise of public functions)." (our emphasis)
The Codes of Practice also discuss the anticipatory nature of the reasonable adjustment duty, which means Service Providers should have considered access to disabled people in general in advance of anyone requesting access.