Photo: Kalle Kallio
& Pauli Rautiainen
Reasonable accommodations in
music education are individual and
context-dependent policies that are
planned and implemented together
with the person who has a disability.
Reasonable accommodations are re-
quired by the United Nations’ Conven-
tion on the Rights of Persons with Dis-
abilities, as well as equity legislations
in several countries.
This ArtsEqual policy recommendation offers
research-based insights and practical examples
for enacting reasonable accommodation in music
education. It utilises Finnish music education sys-
tem as a context, but the perspectives presented
can be applied in a variety of education systems
internationally as well as among other art forms.
The policy recommendation is directed at local
authorities, institutions and individual teachers.
Music education institutions and music teachers should:
·Implement reasonable accommodations for students and teachers
·Evaluate their abilities to implement reasonable accommodation as
part of institutions’ equity plans, as well as accessibility evaluations
·Oer in-service and continuing education for teachers
Reasonable accommodations in music education are individual and
context-dependent policies that are planned and implemented together
with the person who has a disability. Reasonable accommodations are re-
quired by the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities (CRPD), as well as equity legislations in several countries.
This ArtsEqual policy recommendation oers research-based insights
and practical examples for enacting reasonable accommodation in mu-
sic education. The policy recommendation is directed at local authorities,
institutions and individual teachers who aim to advance equity in music
education. It utilises Finnish music education system as a context, but the
perspectives presented can be applied in a variety of education systems
internationally as well as among other art forms.
What is reasonable accommodation?
Reasonable accommodations are individual and context-dependent poli-
cies that are planned and implemented together with the person who has
a disability (De Beco, 2019; Koninen, 2017). They dier from accessibil-
ity policies, which are preventive, systemic and oen based on separate
protocols. Accessibility policies include, for example, permanent wheel-
chair ramps or induction loops. Reasonable accommodation comple-
ments accessibility policies: If a person does not achieve an equal position
with others, reasonable accommodation is required to create equity. For
instance, moving teaching from a non-accessible space to an accessible
space is reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations con-
cern also entrance examination, when necessary.
In Finland, the legal obligation for reasonable accommodation covers
the public and private sectors, including all education providers. Each ed-
ucation provider must create a plan for equity action and evaluate how
equity is put into practice. If any pitfalls are encountered during equity
planning or evaluation, education providers should implement any nec-
essary actions, such as accessibility policies and reasonable accommo-
dation procedures. Both are required when education is inaccessible to
someone. Reasonable accommodation can entail physical learning envi-
ronments or interaction and communication in learning situations.
The right to reasonable accommodation concerns not only students,
but also teachers and other sta members. The education provider must
ensure, via accessibility policies and reasonable accommodations, that
people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to work as teachers.
Teachers as key agents in providing reasonable accommodation
Reasonable accommodation is a collaborative process. A person who re-
quires reasonable accommodation and the education provider (authority,
rector, teachers) decide in dialogue¹ how and what kind of reasonable ac-
commodation will be established. The starting point for reasonable ac-
commodation concerns the needs of a person with disabilities and what
can be reasonably expected as a response to the situation at hand. Reason-
able accommodation is related to cultural traditions and frameworks – in
the context of education under the national core curriculum and tradi-
tions related to teaching content and pedagogical approaches.
They also are related to the size of the actor, economic issues and the
nature of the activity, i.e., it is assumed that municipalities and other
public actors should incur signiﬁcant economic costs, whereas small, pri-
vate actors can only be reasonably expected to make minor accommoda-
tions. Reasonable accommodation also can be no-cost (Arnardóir, 2011).
The implementation of reasonable accommodation is centred around
evaluations of what is deemed reasonable. In Finland, National Non-Dis-
crimination and Equality Tribunal can resolve reasonability issues, e.g.,
when a person with a disability complains about a reasonable accommoda-
tion being withheld. Currently,
very few education discrimina-
tion cases have been taken to
the board in Finland.
Despite the teaching con-
text, teachers always have autonomy to some extent in relation to nation-
al and local curricula concerning teaching approaches. This autonomy
allows teachers to decide on whether reasonable accommodations that
advance equity are needed; e.g., in Finland, teachers have nearly full au-
thority and professional freedom to demand reasonable accommodations
(Kivijärvi & Rautiainen, 2020).
Reasonable accommodation in music education practice
The following examples of reasonable accommodation are based on an
article by Sanna Kivijärvi and Pauli Rautiainen (2020), ‘Contesting mu-
sic education policies through the concept of reasonable accommoda-
tion: Teacher autonomy and equity enactment in Finnish music educa-
tion’², published in the peer-reviewed journal Research Studies in Music
Figurenotes and reasonable accommodation of notation conceptions
Western standard music notation can be a mechanism that limits equity
in music education (Kivijärvi & Väkevä, 2020). In music education pro-
vided by comprehensive or upper secondary schools or in Basic Education
in the Arts, there are no curricular reasons why other notation systems
cannot be used. The framework curricula set by the Finnish National
Agency for Education addresses music reading and writing, but do not
provide guidance on the use of Western standard music notation as such
(LPOPS, 2019; POPS, 2014; TPOPS, 2017). Western standard music no-
tation’s hegemony seems to be based on traditions in music education
The Figurenotes notation system is an example of reasonable accom-
modation in notation conceptions.³ Figurenotes is a colour- and shape-
based notation system that is used at all levels of the education system,
from basic education to teacher education departments (Kivijärvi, 2019).
serviceshastomake dueandappropriateadjustmentsnecessary in
eachsituation forapersonwith disabilities tobeable,equallywith
In-service education can offer tools for
analyzing cultural frameworks that
impact reasonable accommodation.
There are no legislative, curricular⁴ or administrative barriers to reason-
able accommodation with Figurenotes. Reasonable accommodation must
be implemented in cooperation and negotiation with the student. This
negotiation should cover the beneﬁts and limitations regarding reasonable
accommodation. In the case of Figurenotes, the negotiation can concern,
for example, potential limitations in musical genres or repertoire selections
or goals regarding learning. Reasonable accommodation does not cause an
undue burden for the education provider or the person requiring reasona-
ble accommodation. Buying Figurenotes books or writing sheet music with
computer soware aligns with the costs of traditional notation material.
Tablet computer as an instrument choice
Music education in Finnish comprehensive and upper secondary schools
and Basic Education in the Arts institutions⁵ mainly are based in tradi-
tional musical instruments. It can be impossible for a person living with
muscular disease or other physical challenges to play a traditional musical
instrument. In this case, reasonable accommodation is directed toward
instrument conceptions: instead of a traditional musical instrument, an
individual can play a tablet computer.
There are no curricular restrictions for reasonable accommodation in
instrument conceptions. Negotiation of reasonable accommodation can be
directed toward learning goals or group playing opportunities. A similar
negotiation also can take place regarding traditional instruments. From an
economic perspective, tablet computers are aordable compared with tra-
ditional instruments. In-service education on the use of tablet computers
can incur signiﬁcant expenses, especially for Basic Education in the Arts
teachers, who have been trained to master speciﬁc instruments.
Reasonable accommodation for a student using a wheelchair
In summer 2017, Finnish media discussed a case of twin sisters who both
applied and were accepted into comprehensive school music education
in a so-called music-emphasis class. Originally, the City of Espoo refused
to make necessary reasonable accommodation for the sister who used a
wheelchair. Later, the city changed its policy and implemented reasona-
In this case, reasonable accommodation referred to changes in the
physical environment so that the student accepted in music-emphasis
class was able to participate. Examples of reasonable accommodation in
a situation like this can be li arrangements or installing elevators. Also,
in this case, reasonable accommodations must be implemented in con-
sultation with the person in need of the accommodation. There are no
cost-related barriers to reasonable accommodation, as basic education is
funded publicly and required to advance educational equity.
Students and teachers with disabilities have the right to
reasonable accommodation to guarantee equity
Reasonable accommodation refers to individualised, physical or interac-
tion-related modiﬁcations that guarantee equity for people with disabili-
ties. The goal of reasonable accommodation is to advance the implemen-
tation of human rights for everyone. The concept was developed under
the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabil-
ities (CRPD), which is one of the UN’s 16 human rights conventions.⁶ It
obligates countries that have ratiﬁed the convention to fully guarantee
human rights for people with disabilities. In practice, all countries that
have ratiﬁed the convention must implement legislative, governmental
and other policies to fulﬁl the rights addressed in the convention.
CRPD denies discrimination in all areas of life, including in, education
and the arts. Education providers can and should make every eort to
accommodate and remove a variety of challenges that students, teachers
and other sta members with disabilities encounter in their daily lives.
According to the convention, resistance to implementation of reasonable
accommodations is discrimination.
The concept of reasonable accommodation follows a paradigm shi
that aligns with the social model of disability, according to which, the
barriers related to disability are a social problem and thus, communities
can solve them (Shakespeare, 2014). Responding to the criticism over the
inclusion/exclusion dichotomy (Lawson, 2008), this view emphasises the
agency and self-determination of people with disabilities. Reasonable ac-
commodation also expands human rights obligations to areas that previ-
ously were discretionary.
In Finland, the reasonable-accommodation obligations in CRPD have
been put forth in the Non Discrimination Act, which aims to advance
equity, prevent discrimination and enhance legal protection for those
placed in discriminatory predicaments. In addition to direct and indirect
discrimination, the Non-Discrimination Act in Finland views withhold-
ing reasonable accommodation as discrimination.
In Finland, not all differences in treatment are discrimination
under the non-discrimination legislation. It is not discriminatory to
implement policies that advance actual equity or remove or prevent
barriers caused by discrimination (ks. Jansen ym. 2017). The Non-
Discrimination Act in Finland addresses such treatment in
sections regarding positive discrimination (9 §) and reasonable
accommodation (15 §). The main difference in these sections
is that positive discrimination is not mandatory, whereas
reasonable accommodations are.
Figure 1. An example with ‘Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da’
by J. Lennon and P. McCartney (Kaikkonen and Uusitalo, 2014).
Withholding reasonable accommodation from people
with disabilities is discrimination under CRPD.
Arts as Public Service: Strategic Steps towards Equality
Cross-disciplinary research project (2015–2021)
coordinated by the University of the Arts Helsinki.
Project leader: professor Heidi Westerlund,
Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki
The ArtsEqual policy briefs present to policy makers latest research and research-based discussion produced by the ArtsEqual initiative.
The Arts Equal research initiative, coordinated by the University of the Arts Helsinki, examines, in collaboration and interaction with more than
50 partners, how the arts as public service can increase equality and wellbeing in Finland and meet the social challenges of the 2020s.
About the authors