Last week the Employment Tribunal ruled that Lewisham
Southwark College had discriminated against a blind employee by failing to make
a reasonable adjustment to his working conditions.
Mr Lambert, the disability officer at the College was
blind. He made repeated requests over a number
of years asking the College to make software changes to enable him to access
the student database. The software he requested
read text on the screen out loud, allowing him to access it. However, he was repeatedly told that the
software was too expensive to install and that his role did not require it. The matter came to a head when Mr Lambert
applied for a new position at the College and needed to access the database as
part of the application process. He brought
a claim of disability discrimination against the College.
The Tribunal found against the College.
This case is a good reminder about the duty to make reasonable
adjustments. The Equality Act 2010
places a duty on employers to help disabled job applicants, employees and
former employees. The duty arises where
the disabled individual is placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to
non-disabled individuals. Employers are
not required to implement all adjustments, only those that are reasonable in
the circumstances. In deciding what is
reasonable, a tribunal will consider whether the adjustment would have
ameliorated the disadvantage, the cost of the adjustment in the light of the
employer’s financial resources and the amount of disruption the adjustment
would cause to the employer.
Employers must not ignore requests by disabled employees or applicants
for adjustments to be made. Further,
when introducing new software or systems, it is a good idea to consider the
needs of disabled employees and applicants to avoid future claims.