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18 Rights for Disabled People

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1. Introduction

2. When discrimination can happen

3. What the law says

4. What counts as a disability

The Disability Discrimination Act says that a disabled person is someone with a physical or mental ‘impairment’ that has ‘a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

A ‘substantial adverse effect’ is something that limits your ability in more than a minor or trivial way. Exactly how it limits your ability is important in deciding whether you count as disabled for the purposes of the law. If you want to make a claim that you have been discriminated against because of a disability, you may need an expert medical opinion to back you up.

Normal day-to-day activities
The Act lists eight kinds of ability, and says that if your condition impairs one or more of these, it will affect your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. They are:

  • mobility (getting around);
  • manual dexterity (using your hands);
  • physical co-ordination;
  • continence (being in full control of body functions, such as passing urine);
  • being able to lift, carry or move everyday objects;
  • speech, hearing or eyesight;
  • memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand; and
  • awareness of the risk of physical danger.

Some special cases
If your impairment comes and goes, it normally counts as a disability only if the ‘substantial adverse effect’ is more likely than not to come back in the future. But people who have been diagnosed with cancer, HIV infection or multiple sclerosis (MS) are treated as being disabled from the moment that they contract the condition, whether or not it has a ‘substantial adverse effect’ at that time.

If you have another condition that is likely to get worse so that it eventually has a ‘substantial adverse effect’, then the law protects you from the time your condition begins to affect your abilities. This includes, for example, muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s disease.

You are also protected if you use an aid and without it the impairment would have a substantial adverse effect on your day-to-day activities. This includes, for example, people who:

  • use an artificial limb; or
  • have epilepsy and take medication to control seizures.

However, it does not normally cover people who wear glasses or contact lenses, although people who are registered or certified as blind or partially sighted are protected.

If you have had a disability in the past, you are protected from discrimination even if you no longer have it.

What doesn’t count as a disability
Certain conditions are not counted as impairments under the Disability Discrimination Act. Two examples are:

  • addiction to or dependency on alcohol, nicotine, or any drug (unless it was prescribed); and
  • hay fever-type allergies, except where they make another condition worse.

If you are not sure about whether you are protected under the Act, contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission (see ‘Further help’).

5. When discrimination is allowed

6. Discrimination at work

7. Discrimination when buying and using goods and services

8. Discrimination by public authorities

9. Discrimination by private clubs and associations

10. Discrimination when buying or renting a property

11. Discrimination at school or college

12. What you can do about discrimination

13. Going to an employment tribunal (ET)

14. Going to court

15. Going to a special educational needs and disability tribunal (Sendist)

16. The Human Rights Act

17. Further help

18. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Andrew Short, a barrister at Outer Temple Chambers and specialist in discrimination law.

Leaflet Version: August 2008

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