Reasonable adjustment and the Australian VET system

The following information about reasonable adjustment has been paraphrased from Edition 4 of the Back 2 Basics publication. This has been replaced by Edition 5 but the newer edition has much less details.

What is reasonable adjustment?

Reasonable adjustment refers to measures or actions taken to provide a student with a disability the same educational opportunities as everyone else. To be reasonable, adjustments must be appropriate for that person, must not create undue hardship for a RTO and must be allowable within rules defined by the training package or accredited course.

Engaging in reasonable adjustment activities include:

  • assisting students to identify their learning needs
  • offering a variety of course options or pathways
  • offering a variety of delivery modes or methods.

Why is reasonable adjustment so important?

A person with a disability has the same right to study at any educational institution as any other student. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 makes it unlawful for an RTO to discriminate against someone because the person has a disability. The Disability Standards for Education 2005 provide greater clarity on areas where reasonable adjustment can be applied.

If a person with a disability meets the necessary course entry requirements of a RTO, they should have just as much chance to study there as anyone else.

Under the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015, a RTO is required to identify and comply with relevant Australian Government, state or territory laws on issues such as discrimination.

People with a disability who believe an RTO has not made reasonable adjustment to respond to their needs can complain formally to the Australian Human Rights Commission or their state or territory anti-discrimination bodies.

Determining reasonable adjustment

Participants in VET could have a range of disabilities such as:

  • learning disabilities
  • sensory impairments (including vision, hearing or speech impairment)
  • physical or mobility impairments
  • psychological or psychiatric impairments (or mental illness)
  • cerebral palsy or head injury, which may result in multiple impairments
  • medical conditions including HIV or AIDS, cancer, or chronic fatigue syndrome (which may result in multiple disabilities)
  • intellectual disabilities.

In most situations the person with the disability will be able to tell the RTO what adjustments they need to be able to study. If necessary, the RTO should also seek advice from government agencies or support organisations to determine what needs to be done to accommodate an individual’s needs.

Reasonable adjustment activities could involve:

  • modifying or providing equipment
  • changing assessment procedures
  • changing course delivery
  • modifying premises.

The determination of ‘reasonableness’ requires judgement that must take into account the impact on the organisation and the need to maintain the integrity of the unit of competency.

Where the qualification outcome is specifically related to an ‘occupational’ outcome, any reasonable adjustment may only be accommodated in the assessment process if the workplace can be similarly ‘adjusted’ to accommodate the needs of the person with the disability.

Unjustifiable hardship

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 does not require changes to be made if they will cause major difficulties or unreasonable costs to a person or organisation. This is called ‘unjustifiable hardship’. Before claiming that adjustments are unjustified, an RTO needs to consider thoroughly how an adjustment might be made, discuss this directly with the person involved and consult relevant sources for advice.


[1] Back 2 Basics, Edition 4

[2] Back 2 Basics, Edition 5

[3] Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015

[4] Users’ guide to the Standards for RTOs 2015

[5] Disability Standards for Education 2005

[6] Providing quality training and assessment services to students with disability (ASQA Fact Sheet)

The Disability Standards for Education 2005 clarify the obligations of education and training providers, and it seeks to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students. These Standards were developed under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and came into effect in August 2005. The Standards were review in 2015, and another review is being conducted during 2020 by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Australia’s VET system

Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system is complex and forever changing. People studying for their TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification may find useful information on this website. Tap or click on the following ABC logo to find out more.

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The information of this webpage supplements the TAE resources that have been developed by On Target Work Skills.

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