Back to main fact checker page

Reasonable adjustments and children with disabilities

Myth :  I need to make reasonable adjustments for every child in my class who has a disability as defined by the federal disability legislation.

Fact : The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (Cth) define “disability” quite broadly to include students who have “total or partial loss of bodily or mental functions”, “loss or malfunction of a part of the person’s body”, “disease or illness”, something which causes them to “learn differently” or “a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions of judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour” (Standards at 1.4).

This is much broader than the six categories recognised by Education Queensland which attract additional resourcing. These categories are:

  1. autism spectrum disorder
  2. hearing impairment
  3. intellectual impairment
  4. physical impairment
  5. speech-language impairment
  6. vision impairment.

While teachers are required to make reasonable adjustments, the limited resources made available by the department for students who do not fit into one of the above six categories makes this very difficult. Note that additional staffing support can be negotiated individually for students with special needs who are not in one of the six categories.

Exactly what is “reasonable adjustment” will depend on the facts of each case, but the Disability Standards give some guidance at 3.4. They state that an adjustment is reasonable if it balances the interests of all parties affected and that regard should be had to all the relevant circumstances and interests, including:

3.4 (2)
(a) the student’s disability
(b) the views of the student or student’s associate
(c) the effect of the adjustment on the student
(d) the effect of the proposed adjustment on anyone else affected, including the education provider, staff and other students
(e) the costs and benefits of making the adjustment. 

The Disability Standards state that an adjustment is not mandatory if it would cause “unjustifiable hardship” to the provider. 

[Information updated 17 April 2014]