This is what Janine said in the debate about Reasonable Adjustments for Disabled Workers at the TUC Disabled Workers' Conference on 11 March 2021.
I’ll start with what might be a provocative statement:
Reasonable adjustments for individual workers are Plan B. Plan A is an accessible workplace.
We want disabled workers to be able to access work without having to ask for barriers to be removed because those barriers are no longer there.
- We don’t want wheelchair users to have to ask for a ramp to be installed, we want it to be there already.
- We don’t want dyslexic workers to have to ask for workplace printed communications to be in dyslexia-friendly print layout, we want it to already be dyslexia-friendly.
- We don’t want workers with epilepsy to have to ask for fluorescent lights to be replaced, we want benign lighting to already be there.
- If a worker with a hearing sensitivity needs to use noise-cancelling headphones, we want there to be a stock of them ready and available in the workplace rather than a long process of buying them in.
- We don’t want a worker with a mental health condition to have to ask for a four-day week, we want the standard full-time working week to be four days.
- Freedom from bullying and harassment at work is not a ‘reasonable adjustment’ – it’s a right!
It is far better for a workplace to be made as accessible as possible than for a disabled worker to have to ask for adjustments – especially as there are barriers to doing so. A disabled worker
- may be unaware of their rights,
- may be afraid to disclose their disabled status, or
- may summon the courage to ask only to be left waiting for months or even years for the adjustment they need.
We want access arrangements to be ‘as standard’ not ‘as required’.
Of course, even with major changes to remove barriers, there will still be disabled individuals who need individual adjustments. And until these changes are made, we will still fight for the adjustments that individual disabled workers need.
But let’s not forget that a workplace only needs adjusting if it is not accessible. That if a disabled worker needs an adjustment, then there is something wrong with the workplace not with the disabled worker.
Let’s support individuals, but let’s also act collectively for collective change.