Making reasonable adjustments
Making adjustments means more girls and volunteers can take part in our activities
To include disabled members in our activities, we need to remove the barriers they experience.
These barriers may be physical – like stairs can be a barrier to a wheelchair user wanting to enter a building - but could be due to negative attitudes, prejudice or stereotypes. When we remove these barriers, disabled people can be fully included, have independence, choice and control. This is often called the ‘social model’ of disability.
The Equality Act 2010 says that we need to make reasonable adjustments to include disabled people. Everyone in guiding has a responsibility to follow this law and do what they can to make sure disabled volunteers and young members can get involved.
What are reasonable adjustments?
Making reasonable adjustments means that we do what we can to remove the barriers that disabled people can face.
The law requires us to consider:
- Ways of doing things that might put a disabled person at a disadvantage: These are the formal or informal rules that can make it difficult for a disabled person to get involved. We need to make sure the rules we have are not unintentionally creating a barrier and excluding people. For example, saying that a disabled volunteer doesn’t count in adult:child ratios.
- Physical barriers: Things in the environment or location, like in the unit meeting space, can be barriers for disabled people. We need to make adjustments, such as changing the way we use the space, so that we remove these barriers.
- Providing something that would remove the disadvantage: We may need to provide equipment or a service (like one to one support, or an interpreter) to make it easier for disabled people to get involved.
Make sure that parents and carers are aware that we are a charity, and that all our activities are run by volunteers. So we may not be able to meet the same support standards as the young person’s school, for example.
There may be times where you can’t reasonably make adjustments for some young people because of cost or need for additional volunteers. Every effort should be made if it is reasonable to do so. But some young people may have needs that can’t be accommodated, and this is ok.
If you are concerned that you can’t meet the needs of a disabled member, you can contact [email protected] for more support.
Talk to any new or current disabled members in your unit. Try to find out about the barriers they experience. Discuss what changes they would find most useful and what has worked for them in the past. For young members you could also ask parents or carers what has worked well before. They could have some creative ideas that can help.
- Ask them to tell you about their impairment – their illness or medical condition and how it affects their normal activities. You don’t need to know all the details but knowing if its constant or changes and how it affects them at guiding can help you create the right plan.
- Ask what they can do with the right help – don’t ask what they are unable to do. Where appropriate, ask what can be painful or tiring to do or what they would need some help with. You can ask questions like: These are the sorts of things we do in Rainbows... what do we need to think about so you can join in? We'd like to take the unit camping, which involves these things... what do we need to have in place so you can come along? If you're are getting anxious or upset, would you like a quiet space to yourself? What would that look like?
- Work together – make the changes with them. Ask for their ideas and if they can tell you what has worked for them before. Share any ideas you have and check if they think will work. Remember, it’s not their responsibility to make these changes.
- Use our care plan template to write your plans down and agree with everyone involved what will happen.
- Be positive and honest. With a positive attitude and a flexible mindset, you can achieve a lot! Be open about what will be difficult to do, but always work on ideas for next steps.
- Don’t make assumptions. Remember that what worked as an adjustment in one place, like at school, won’t always work well or be possible in guiding where we have fewer resources and are run by volunteers. Also remember that people are different. Just because a certain adjustment worked in one case, it doesn’t mean it will be suitable for a different person who has same, or similar, impairment. Talk together about previous experiences and how you can adapt them to work in guiding.
- Keep a record. It’s useful to keep short notes of any ideas tried, conversations you had, and what has worked well.
A Brownie with autism, Snita, finds change very difficult. She’s just moved schools and is now due to move up to Guides. She’s worried about making this change and finds it distressing.
After talking with her, her parents and other volunteers, you decide to let her stay in the Brownies for a bit longer. And slowly introduce the idea of moving up. Within a few months Snita has started to attend some Guide meetings. She visited at the start of their session first, then did a full meeting accompanied by a volunteer she knows. Finally, she feels ready to move up sections. You have made reasonable adjustments for Snita’s transition.
The law requires us to consider and make changes in advance to include disabled people. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to make a change.
Think about the experience for people with a visual impairment, a hearing impairment, a mobility impairment or a learning disability. We need to make adaptations for our current members and volunteers but should aim to remove barriers for anyone who would like to get involved or might visit the unit.
- When looking at venues, think about the physical space and how people might use it. Is there an accessible toilet? Does it have a loop system installed?
- Before buying new equipment consider how a disabled person might use it. Would another model be easier?
- If planning a trip, does the venue allow a disabled member to have similar experience as the rest of the group? For example, could they share a room if they wanted to?
- Before using any resources consider if printing out a larger handout or using a different colour might help
- When making signs think about using icons and symbols as well as text. Some units use pictorial signs for drink, biscuits, toilet and big crosses to mark the no-go areas like cupboards, kitchen etc.
- Share what works. When new volunteers join your unit, let them know what you’ve done to make adjustments for your members.
A unit want to go to the cinema to see a new film about a woman superhero. One of their members has a visual impairment. The local arthouse cinema provides audio description of films, but they only do this on a Wednesday. The usual unit meeting night is Tuesday, but with some forward planning they can move the meeting so they can all go to the cinema together.
Alex is a volunteer who has severe arthritis. She can experience a lot of pain if standing still for too long, and sometimes being active can be painful. Usually the volunteers in her unit takes turns to supervise different activities during the unit meeting. To adjust things for Alex, the team agrees that she can sit and supervise one activity, so she doesn’t need to move around a lot, or stand too much, during the meetings. This means Alex can stay with the unit as a volunteer.
Many adjustments to remove barriers will be quite easy to make and won’t disrupt the group. But sometimes a suggested adjustment would be too expensive, would change the guiding experience too much, or might isolate the disabled person. You can decide that it’s not reasonable to make adjustments if they cause problems like this.
This means that sometimes you may not be able to accommodate a disabled member because the changes aren't reasonable for you.
There are usually always some small steps that you can take that will help include more girls in guiding, but if you are unsure if you can make a reasonable adjustment or are concerned that you can't meet the needs of a disabled member you can contact [email protected]
No disabled person should have to pay for any changes. Any costs should be covered by the unit or region. To help with this we offer grants to support disabled members. These can help with transport, training and the development of an accessible programme. You may be able to find additional funding locally, for example through your local authority.
Making reasonable adjustments is not a one-off process. It is something you should revisit again and again. Where you have made an adjustment, you should review how well it’s working to check it's still the best solution. And a person’s condition or impairment can change over time. If this happens, you’ll need to consider new adjustments. It’s a good idea to regularly ask for feedback and proactively think about what more you could do.
Alisha is a Ranger who has a hearing impairment. Her unit has made sure that their meeting space has an emergency alarm with a flashing light, that volunteers always try to face her when they speak, and they don’t rely on sounds only when doing activities. Every term the leaders ask Alisha how she is finding Rangers and if they can do anything more to help her be included.
Landlord and property owners also need to make reasonable adjustments if they rent out a property. If you own property and rent it out, you might need to make adjustments if they are requested.
Be flexible about moving up
We know that moving up to a new section can be challenging for some disabled members. Being flexible about when they need to move up can be a simple reasonable adjustment to make - we allow flexibility about the upper age range of each section until the member's 26th birthday. See the information about disability and guiding for more detail.
Accessible programme books and resources
Our programme resources, including activity cards, skills builders, badge books and handbooks, are available in a range of accessible formats.
Unfortunately, we are not able to send out these resources these at at this time. If you'd like to be notified when we start this up again email [email protected]
If someone raises a concern
Any worry or concern about the lack of access or failure to make a reasonable adjustment should be taken seriously. Sometimes this can be raised informally. But it could be raised formally as a complaint.
Remember that disabled people can take legal action if an organisation fails to make a reasonable adjustment. If you need any advice about managing a concern contact the [email protected].
Scope - disability charity which provides more information about the social model.
ACAS - ACAS provide specialist advice if you are an employer.