Under the Equality Act, Early Years Providers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children or young people.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments aims to make sure that a disabled person can use an organisation’s services as close as it is reasonably possible to get to the standard usually offered to non-disabled people. When something a setting does places a disabled child at a substantial disadvantage to other children, the provider must take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage by making adjustments (in other words, changes). The aim of making adjustments is, as far as possible, to remove any disadvantage faced by disabled children.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments is anticipatory. This means that the provider cannot wait until a disabled child wants to use its services, but must think in advance (and on an ongoing basis) about what disabled children with a range of impairments might reasonably need, such as those who have a learning disability, hearing impairment, visual impairment or a mobility impairment. Early Years providers are not required to do more than it is reasonable for them to do. What is reasonable for a provider to do is dependent on a number of other factors, including its size and the nature of the facilities or services it provides.
When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable, the provider can consider:
- how effective the change will be in assisting disabled children in general or a specific service user
- whether it can actually be done
- the cost
- the provider’s resources and size
The easier any adjustment is, the more likely it is to be deemed reasonable. Even if the adjustment is difficult, this does not mean that it cannot also be reasonable. This has to be balanced against other factors. If an adjustment costs little or nothing and is not disruptive, it would be reasonable unless some other factor (such as impracticality, health and safety requirements, its effect on other children or lack of effectiveness) made it unreasonable.
The organisational size of the Early Years provider and resources are another factor. If the adjustment costs a significant amount, it is more likely to be reasonable for a provider to make it if it has substantial financial resources. Resources must be considered across the whole organisation (where the provider is part of a bigger ‘group’ or company), not just the branch or section that provides the particular service. This is an issue that has to be balanced against other factors.