What is reasonable accommodation?

The law which deals with reasonable accommodation in the provision of goods and services is the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 (‘the ESA’).

Reasonable accommodations are practical changes which service providers have to make so that people with disabilities can get and use all kinds of services on an equal basis with others. This includes services which are free of cost (for example, a public playground, or social welfare services), as well as services which you pay for.

Reasonable accommodations are part of service providers’ responsibility under the ESA.  If a service provider refuses to provide a reasonable accommodation which you need, they may be discriminating against you.

Example A person with a visual impairment applies to join a course.  The course material is available only on paper, and the organisers of the course refuse to provide the material in soft copy, in an audio version or by any other means.

“Reasonable” applies to the individual.  If a service provider refuses to provide an reasonable accommodation which you need in order to access the service, they may be discriminating against you.

Example A school student who uses a motorised wheelchair cannot access the adapted toilet in a school because it is big enough only for someone who uses a manual wheelchair.  The school refuses to make changes, saying that the toilet already meets required building standards. The school is discriminating under the terms of the ESA.

Service providers do not have to provide anything that people would usually provide for themselves, for example, crutches or hearing aids.

Service providers do not have to provide reasonable accommodations if that would cost more than a nominal cost.  However, many reasonable accommodations cost nothing, for example, guiding a visually impaired person through a complex hospital building.  Others cost very little, for example, providing information in large print.

You do not have to tell service providers that you have a disability.  However, it may be hard for the service provider to offer reasonable accommodations if they do not know that you need them.