Making reasonable adjustments

A reasonable adjustment is a measure or action taken to help a student with a learning difficulty and/or disability take part in their education on the same basis as their peers.

Under the Disability Standards for Education 2005, education providers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities.

Education providers must take reasonable steps to make adjustments in a reasonable time.

Adjustments can be made:

  • in the classroom
  • in the playground
  • to excursions and camps
  • to the premises.

These adjustments often benefit not only the student involved but the entire school.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

There are multiple kinds of adjustments you can make to meet your student’s needs. Examples include:

  • providing access to classroom materials through assistive technologies such as screen readers
  • adapting the physical environment, for example, installing ramps
  • modifying the curriculum and assessments, for example allowing a student to answer assessments orally or use a computer
  • presenting classroom materials in a different way such as visual, oral or demonstrations
  • adapting teaching style, for example breaking lessons and/or activities into smaller sections so they are easier to understand
  • reducing the distance between classes/classrooms for students who have physical disabilities
  • giving extra time to move from class to class
  • allowing more time to complete an exam or assessment or giving the student rest breaks
  • planning excursions in accessible locations, for example making sure the location is wheelchair accessible.

Planning reasonable adjustments

Discussions, known as consultations, about reasonable adjustments normally happen at the student’s regular student support group meeting or, if they’re in kindergarten, their program support group.

When planning a reasonable adjustment an education provider should talk about:

  • the student's abilities and learning needs and how these affect their participation in their education, including camps and excursions
  • what adjustments worked well in the past and what adjustments they might need
  • if the adjustment will achieve its aim of ensuring the student can participate in their education
  • if the adjustment is reasonable
  • if there are any other supports or adjustments that are more suitable for the student’s needs.

An education provider may also get expert opinions from allied health professionals, for example, if necessary.

As the student’s needs change over time, consultations should take place regularly.

The principal makes the final decision on adjustments to meet the student’s learning needs.

Education providers do not need to make a change that is not a reasonable adjustment or would cause ‘unjustifiable hardship’.

Special provision for VCE exams

If a student has a disability or becomes ill during VCE exams, they may be able to get special arrangements.

This may include:

  • extra time to complete the exam
  • rest breaks
  • providing one question at a time
  • using computers and assistive technology
  • using a reader or scribe
  • changing the format such as oral or typed assessment instead of written
  • holding tests in quiet areas
  • the material in accessible formats.

Special arrangements are available for the VCE, including the VCE Vocational Major or the Victorian Pathways Certificate at both school-based assessment and external examinations.

For information, read: Special provision

When an adjustment is reasonable

An adjustment is considered reasonable if it achieves its aim of making sure a student with a disability can take part in their education on the same basis as students without a disability, and if it balances the interests of everyone affected. This includes the education provider, staff and other students.

To determine what is reasonable, the education provider should consider:

  • the student's disability
  • what effect the adjustment will have on the students' participation, learning outcomes and independence
  • how the adjustment will affect other students and staff
  • the costs and benefits of making the adjustment.

Adjustments and unjustifiable hardship

It is not unlawful if an education provider cannot make an adjustment if it would cause unjustifiable hardship on the provider.

Examples of unjustifiable hardships might include if there is:

  • a very high cost of providing an adjustment
  • risk to the safety of others if the adjustment is provided.

If an education provider claims unjustifiable hardship, they need to prove that the adjustment would cause them unjustifiable hardship. An explanation of why must also be given to the student as early as possible.

Schools are required to consider all resources available to them when planning for students in their care, including students with disability. A school’s requirement to make reasonable adjustments is not dependent on the availability of supplementary resources, such as those provided under the Program for Students with Disabilities.

Education providers should work with the student and their parents, guardians or carers to find an alternative reasonable adjustment to meet the student’s needs.

An Easy English version of this topic has been written for parents/carers. Read: