Auxiliary Aids and Services - what does a school have to provide?
Schools have a duty under the Equality Act to provide auxiliary aids as part of a reasonable adjustment. However it isn't always clear cut what would be considered a reasonable adjustment and what wouldn't - the Equality Act doesn't actually state it as it is a fluid idea which changes from case to case.
Many children with SEND may need auxiliary aids which are necessary as part of their SEN provision; in some circumstances as part of a formal SEN statement. These aids may be provided in the school under the SEN route, in which case there will be no need for the school to provide those aids as part of their reasonable adjustment duty.
However, schools will have to consider whether to provide auxiliary aids as a reasonable adjustment for disabled children. This will particularly be the case where a disabled child does not have a SEN statement or where the statement does not provide the auxiliary aid or service.
There should be no assumption, however, that if an auxiliary aid is not provided under the SEN regime, then it must be provided as a reasonable adjustment. Similarly, whilst schools and LAs are under the same reasonable adjustment duty, there should be no assumption that where it is unreasonable for a school to provide an auxiliary aid or service, for example on cost grounds, it would then be reasonable for the local authority to provide it.
All decisions depend on the facts of each individual case and this is where we can help. Sometimes it is very hard to distinguish what would be considered reasonable of not under the Equality Act and a trained professional may be able to assist.
This is usually a stumbling block for most when trying to undertake their own access audit. An experienced access consultant who is sensitive to budgetary issues within school settings is able to suggest practical ways of ensuring compliance with equality legislation without recourse to costly works. However a SENCO or caretaker undertaking this work would not typically have the knowledge to decipher what is considered reasonable and what is not.
Get in touch if we can help your school with accessibility planning!