Under the Equality Act 2010, health services must consider the needs of people with disabilities in the way they organise their buildings, policies and services. These are called ‘reasonable adjustments’ and reflect that fact that some people with disabilities may have particular needs that standard services do not adequately meet. This could relate to, for instance, people with learning and/or physical disabilities, those with dementia and people living with mental health problems.
Reasonable adjustments can be made to many areas of health services. Services can ensure, for example, that:
- buildings, including toilets, are accessible to people with physical disabilities
- signposting is clear and easy to follow
- information and advice is offered in formats and languages that people can understand
- extra time is offered to people who have particular communication needs or difficulty understanding what is being said
- alternatives to hospital or clinic attendance are considered for those who have problems in getting to appointments
- families and friends of people with disabilities are actively involved, if the person wishes them to be.
As individuals, we can be sensitive to people’s needs, recognising if a person has a communication problem (such as deafness) that requires a tailored approach, or a physical problem that makes accessing and negotiating the building difficult, or is particularity anxious about engaging with health professionals and needs a bit more time and reassurance. This applies not only to the people in our care, but also perhaps to some of the people we work with.
In short, adopting a person-centred approach to all the people we care for and work with, and being prepared to be flexible in our responses to meet their needs, is probably the best guarantee of ensuring reasonable adjustments are made to improve people’s experiences of services.
A database of examples of reasonable adjustment NHS services in England have made to support people with learning disabilities and others can be found on the Public Health England website.
The Equality Act 2010 forms part of the law of England and Wales. It also, with the exception of section 190 and Part 15, forms part of the law of Scotland. There are also a few provisions which form part of the law of Northern Ireland.