People with disability or ongoing ill health (including mental health issues) can experience significant disadvantage and disruption to their educational attainment and employment prospects, potentially creating lifelong social and economic disadvantage.
As part of the RTO's compliance obligations with Clause 8.5 of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015, RTOs must meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Government's Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (DSE) which require education providers to ensure learners with disability or ongoing ill health are able to access and participate in education and training. Section 4(1) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 defines reasonable adjustment as 'an adjustment to be made by a person is a reasonable adjustment unless making the adjustment would impose an unjustifiable hardship on the person'.
This Fact Sheet aims to assist RTO trainers, assessors
and managers to understand and manage reasonable
adjustment in teaching, learning and assessment.
Reasonable adjustment is a term used in the
education, employment and VET sectors to refer to any modification made to the
learning environment, training delivery or assessment method to help learners
with disability or ongoing ill health to access and participate in education
and training on the same basis as those without disability or ongoing ill
health. This includes:
ensuring that course activities are sufficiently flexible;
providing additional support where necessary; and
offering a reasonable substitute within the context
of the course where a learner cannot participate.
Reasonable adjustment is not designed to give a learner with disability or ongoing ill health an advantage over other learners, to change course standards or outcome, or to guarantee success.
In assessing whether a particular adjustment for a learner is reasonable, relevant circumstances and interests need to be considered including the:
a) learner's disability or ongoing ill health;
b) views of the learner or the learner's associate;
c) effect of the adjustment on the learner, including the effect on the learner's:
i) ability to achieve learning outcomes;
ii) ability to participate in courses or programs; and
d) effect the proposed adjustment on anyone else affected, including the education provider, staff and other learners; and
e) costs and benefits of making the adjustments.
Access and equity and meeting learner needs
The Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 (Standards) require all RTOs identify and respond to learners needs, typically through the provision of educational and support services. These needs may arise from a person's:
- age / Gender
- remote location
- cultural or ethnic background
- sexuality or
- language skills, or literacy and numeracy level
Standards for RTOs - Clause 1.3(b)
The RTO has, for all of its scope of registration, and consistent with its training and assessment strategies, sufficient:
(b) educational and support services to meet the needs of the learner cohort/s undertaking training and assessment; …
In responding to a leaners needs, an RTO must not only take
into consideration the impact on the RTO and other learners but also the extent
to which adjustments can be made without damaging the integrity of the industry
standard and the certification that follows. This means that the adjustments
that are made must be applicable in the workplace.
consideration for RTOs when considering how to meet the needs of an individual
learner is the requirements of Clauses 1.8 and 3.1 of the Standards.
Standards for RTOs - Clause 1.8
The RTO implements an assessment
system that ensures that assessment
(including recognition of prior learning):
a) complies with the assessment requirements of the
relevant training package or VET accredited course; and
b) is conducted in accordance with the Principles
of Assessment contained in Table 1.8-1 and the Rules of Evidence contained in
Fairness as a Principle of Assessment requires that where appropriate, reasonable adjustments are applied by an RTO to take into account the individual learner's need.
Standards for RTOs - Clause 3.1
The RTO issues AQF certification documentation
only to a learner whom it has assessed
as meeting the requirements of the training product as specified in the
relevant training package or VET accredited course.
Disability and reasonable adjustment
Disability also requires particular attention as education and training providers are obliged by law to consider whether they can make a reasonable adjustment to help learners with disability access and participate in education and training.
The guiding principle underlying the concept of reasonable adjustment is inclusive practice and includes the following:
for differences in individual interests, experiences, learning styles and
learners’ ability to take control of their own learning;
authentic tasks that require thoughts and allow time for exploration;
the development of meaning and understanding, rather than simply the completion
cooperation, communication and negotiation; and
that no learner is excluded.
Reasonable adjustment does not mean that all
learner requests are granted. It is about consultation and negotiation to
determine what can reasonably be provided. Any adjustment is only reasonable in relation to
a learner with a disability or ongoing ill health if it balances the interests
of all parties affected, this includes the RTO’s interests. These are expressed in the following
Disability Standards for Education 2005 - Clause 3.4(3)
… the provider may continue to ensure the
integrity of its courses or program and assessment requirements and processes,
so that those on whom it confers an award can present themselves as having
appropriate knowledge, experience and expertise implicit in the holding of that
Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA) - Section 66I(4)
Section 66I(4) states a provider in accepting an application for admission will not have imposed upon it or experience an unjustifiable hardship in providing to the learner any additional services and facilities.
What reasonable adjustments are possible?
Reasonable adjustment as it applies to
participation in learning and assessment activities may include:
customising resources or activities within a
training package or accredited course;
providing assistive or
information accessible both before enrolment and during the course; and
adjustments to ensure that the learner’s needs continue to be met.
It is crucial that learners are provided with
all relevant information before they enrol so they can select the right course
and prepare their home or work environment to enable them to best meet course
demands. Providing information in a range of formats – print and electronically
– allows for flexibility and optimum accessibility to learners. Relevant
course structure, core requirements, literacy
and numeracy levels required, delivery methods, assessment methods, any
relevant industry or professional association requirements, relevant
legislation and OH&S requirements for the industry;
reasonable adjustment options for learners with
disability or ongoing ill health, including learner’s responsibilities and how
to access services; and
how the learner can disclose information about
their disability or ongoing ill health.
Disclosure of disability or ongoing ill health
Disclosure of disability or ongoing ill health
is the learner’s choice and is not a requirement for participation in a VET
course or program. However, encouraging learners to share information about the
impact of their disability or ongoing ill health on their learning early in
their engagement with the RTO helps the RTO make timely reasonable adjustments.
An RTO cannot force any learner to engage in
reasonable adjustments, but the RTO can reduce the discomfort of disclosure by
providing clear information about:
The RTO must obtain the learner’s written/signed
consent before sharing any of their disclosed information.
Making decisions about reasonable adjustment
The DSE requires RTOs to consult with the learner or their associate about:
the nature of the disability or ongoing ill health and its effects, if any, on the learner's ability to participate in the course or program,
any reasonable adjustment that may be made to facilitate participation and achievement.
The key word is consultation - the learner may already have a clear idea of what they need and this process depends on the learner providing timely information about the effects of their disability or ongoing ill health.
Once a learner has shared relevant information, any decisions about reasonable adjustments should be made collaboratively with the learner, their trainers/assessors, appropriate support people, disability practitioners and external experts as required. Planning and preparation by an RTO are integral to making good decisions on reasonable adjustment and the RTOs processes must allocate sufficient time to investigate possibilities for an individual, ensuring where possible a reasonable adjustment can be implemented.
The workplace focus of competency assessment means the RTO must be aware of what adjustments or modifications might be reasonable to expect within a workplace, and what adjustment developed for assessment might reasonably be transferred to the workplace. These considerations mean that the RTO needs to establish and maintain a close working relationship with industry in developing assessment strategies.
A feature of a sound RTO process on whether opportunity exists for reasonable adjustment, both favourable and unfavourable, includes the documenting of actions taken to determine and collation of supporting evidence to support decision.
If the learner seeks support, the following
steps may be considered in consultation with the learner:
identify the challenges, needs and barriers
suggest adjustments that could be made to meet
the learner’s needs;
discuss whether these adjustments are
provide written confirmation to the learner of
all discussions and decisions and specify a date for final confirmation of
course enrolment by the learner.
RTOs are encouraged to work with employers and
learners to determine if there are possibilities for resource sharing that may
enable a learner to participate and achieve in the VET sector. In larger
organisations there may be a disability specialist or support team that can
provide assistance through the consultation process.
Implementing reasonable adjustment
The implementation of appropriate adjustments
need not be difficult. Assessing competence involves two distinct phases:
The process of assessment must be a reflection of the mandatory
requirements of the unit of competency and assessment requirements to meet the
workplace standards. All learners must be judged against the same standard, this
does not mean that all learners must be assessed in the same way. It is in
gathering evidence that an assessor can safely make reasonable adjustments,
while retaining the rigour and consistency of their judgement of competence.
Assessing knwoledge and skills
Competence includes two components:
will be assessed differently, so different kinds of adjustments will be
required for each.
Knowledge is usually assessed through written or
oral, short‑answer tests where assessors determine the extent of the learner’s
knowledge. You may consider the following for a learner with disability:
ask questions orally instead of in a written
employ the services of a reader, interpreter or
provide equipment such as text enlargers, image
enhancers, voice synthesisers, voice recorders, specialised software or special
give the learner more time to complete the
allocate a different time for completion of the
offer a separate, quiet room.
These adjustments make the process of
understanding the question and responding appropriately less threatening for
the learner, but they do not alter the thought processes the learner has to go
through to demonstrate their knowledge.
Skills are important in VET and assessment must
reflect the application of each skill in a real or simulated workplace. Skills
are usually work‑related, hands‑on activities, where how much time is taken can
also be a work‑relevant requirement. When making reasonable adjustment with
respect to the assessment of skills, you should consider workplace
modifications that might reasonably be expected in industry and whether the learner
can perform the required skill in workplace‑like conditions.
To identify reasonable modifications to a
workplace, consultation with industry to identify the modifications needed to
provide access to assessment for learners with disability will need to be
conducted. Consultation has a second benefit in that it informs and encourages
industry to recognise the potential of learners with disability as prospective
employees. In some cases, there may be no reasonable workplace modification
that will preserve the integrity of the competency.
Learners who face this situation need to be
counselled about this, so that if they decide to go ahead with the training,
they fully understand their prospects for successful assessment and
CASE STUDY 1:
A learner with paraplegia who uses a wheelchair wanted to
undertake a qualification in the timber trades area. It was immediately evident
that there were some parts of the training that would present barriers due to
issues of physical mobility, predominantly in the workshop environment.
It was decided that a meeting, centred on determining the learner’s
abilities and individual requirements in relation to the training, and
involving a number of relevant key stakeholders, would be held in the workshop
of the timber trades area. The workshop was the perfect place to hold the
meeting in order that the learner could physically demonstrate what they
were and were not able to undertake in the environment in which they would
undertake their training, if enrolled. The key stakeholders attending the
meeting included: the learner, RTO trainer/assessor, specialist disability
support agency staff including an employment and training coordinator, an
occupational therapist, occupational health and safety expert and a disability
consultant. While this may seem like a very large group, each person had a role
to play, in terms of support for the learner as well as ensuring the practical
aspects of the adjustments.
The learner was given the opportunity to have a ‘test run’
using the various types of equipment that they would be required to use if
undertaking the training. They did this in the presence of those best qualified
to determine if they were able to do so in such a way that they did not present
a risk to themselves or other learners participating in the training
environment. Some of the equipment was not a problem to use. Other equipment
presented workplace health and safety (WHS) risks that could be overcome with
modifications and some equipment was just not an option due to the WHS risks.
The stakeholders continued to work together to establish
what types of modifications could be achieved that would enable the learner to
enrol in as many of the units in the qualification as possible. During this
process it was discovered that particular modifications that may have allowed
the learner to participate in a number of the units, would in fact have
introduced a range of duty of care WHS issues for the other learners in the
class. It was decided that the duty of care to other learners in the training
environment outweighed the proposed modifications, therefore making the
proposed modifications an unreasonable adjustment.
After some collaboration and with input from the learner and
relevant stakeholders, it was decided the learner would enrol in the units in
which they could safely participate. Modifications would be made (that did not
entail a duty of care issue for other learners), e.g. a bench lowered so that
the learner could safely use hand tools at the bench.
It was then decided that, because the learner was unable to
undertake some of the units associated with the qualification, the course would
be modified for this learner to include several specialised units which the learner
was able to safely undertake, in place of those in which the learner could not
safely participate. For instance, units associated with developing specialised
hand tool skills were introduced. These enabled the learner to undertake
assessable tasks such as detailed carving that would in turn, if they were
judged competent, allow them to apply for specific types of employment. Thus,
the course was modified for this learner to include a unique set of units that
would reflect on the Statement of Attainment, a skills set that would deem the learner
employable within a specific sub set of a trade such as cabinet making.
The process was complex and involved many stakeholders but
this was necessary to ensure that the learner had the best possible opportunity
to undertake the training for which they had a passion, without imposing risk
to themselves or others in the training environment. The learner, on completing
the program, will not achieve a ‘full’ qualification in the traditional sense,
but due to the way in which Statements of Attainment are presented it will be
reflected that the learner has achieved a wide range of competencies, including
some which are specialised, in a trade area of their choice. This will
contribute to the learner becoming highly employable to a suitable employer.
They/them/their pronouns used throughout the case study rather than he/she or him/her
CASE STUDY 2:
A learner has enrolled in the Certificate II in Plumbing
pre-vocational course which runs Monday to Wednesday 8.00am to 3.45pm with
Thursday and Friday dedicated to mandatory work placement. The learner has a
hearing impairment that they’ve had since birth. They wear hearing aids in both
ears but struggles with a large amount of verbal information and instructions
given at one time. They can lip read very well, but the hearing impairment has
affected their confidence and interpersonal skills.
Impact on the learner
Implications for learning for the learner
fear of interacting with others;
avoidance of group tasks;
exclusion by other learners because of ‘different
learner may appear withdrawn and disinterested;
leaner may appear unconnected to practical and
difficulty concentrating in a noisy environment;
struggles to understand verbal instructions if
teacher’s face not visible; and
struggles to interpret teacher’s instructions in
a workshop environment.
The disability support team have created an
Individual Support Plan to accommodate the learner’s hearing and support social
provision of an Auslan interpreter, initially 3
days per week and to be reviewed as the learner progresses through the course;
notes for the Auslan interpreter to familiarise
them with industry terminology;
extra time with lecturers to clarify concepts;
scripts from videos;
handouts containing visual information and
workshop tasks that include small group work and
careful selection of the employer for work
support provided to the employer for the first 3
weeks of work placements.
Costs associated with reasonable adjustments
JobAccess can provide employers with funding for workplace
modifications through the Employment Assistance fund and Workplace
Modifications Scheme; however, it is not available to trainees or training
providers. The conditions for funding can be found at www.jobaccess.gov.au. The
costs associated with modifications will also determine whether an adjustment
is reasonable or not and whether compliance would impose an unjustifiable
hardship on the provider.
In the unlikely event that a learner does not accept the
RTO’s judgement that an adjustment is unreasonable, the Equal
Opportunity Commission or the Australian
Human Rights Commission can be contacted for advice.
Record keeping requirements
All RTOs have
obligations to keep records for a variety of purposes. Where personal
information is collected from a learner, RTOs must make learners aware of the
purposes for which their information may be collected, used or disclosed. Records for learners with disability
or ongoing ill health should include:
the grounds for eligibility for reasonable
evidence used to determine eligibility and
reasonable adjustments that are to be implemented;
consultation undertaken with the learner or an
associate of the learner or any other relevant stakeholder;
the reasonable adjustment(s) available to the
the subjects and assessment task(s) for which
adjustments are provided;
the grounds for the
denial of reasonable adjustment;
any advice provided
to the learner through the decision making process.
Additionally, it is recommended that the RTO
keep samples of assessment tasks that have been adjusted to include in the
validation and review processes within the RTO.
Usefule resources to support reasonable adjustment and inclusive practice
Department of Training and Workforce Development - Reasonable Adjustment: A guide to Working with students with disability. (2nd edition, 2013)
Department of Employment, Small Business and Training (Qld) (DESBT) - Reasonable adjustment in teaching, learning and assessment for learners with disability: A guide for VET practitioners. (July 2018)
Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) - provides information and practical guidelines to support disability practitioners, teachers and students.
Disability Awareness – A website that provides free training for VET staff supporting learners with disability, developed as part of a Commonwealth Government initiative.
JOBACCESS – A website for Commonwealth Government Disability advice.
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) Supporting tertiary students with a disability or mental illness: good practice guide (November 2015)
 Associate, in relation to a person, as defined by the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 includes:
- A spouse of the person; and
- Another person who is living with the person on a genuine domestic basis; and
- A relative of the person; and
- A carer of the person; and
- Another person who is in a business, sporting or recreational relationship with the person.
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