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Disability Discrimination Act 1995

28 March 2009

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was passed in 1995 to introduce measures aimed at ending the discrimination that many disabled people face in their everyday lives. If you have an impairment or a long-term health condition that has an impact on your day-to-day life you are likely to have rights under the DDA.

man in wheelchair at PC

Definition of Disability

According to research, around 20% of people of working age are considered by the Government and by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) to be "disabled". This means is that they have a disability or a long-term health condition that has an impact on their day to day lives. People in these circumstances and some others (such as people with a facial disfigurement) are likely to have rights under the DDA.

Am I Disabled?

A survey showed that 52% of people who qualified as "disabled" under the DDA did not consider themselves disabled. Most people who have a disability or a health condition develop it in later life - only 17% are born with a particular condition. The DDA provides disabled people with rights and it also places duties on employers.

People are affected by disability or health conditions in different ways. This can happen suddenly, as a result of accidents or strokes for example, or gradually as a result of conditions such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Some people are affected for some but not all of the time by their condition, for example people with manic depression. There is often no defining moment when a health issue becomes a disability, at least for the individual concerned.

If you are "disabled" under the terms of the DDA, then this will help you to negotiate for reasonable adjustments in the workplace and give you legal protection if you feel you have been treated unfairly by an employer.

What the law means by Disability Discrimination

If you are disabled, or have had a disability, the DDA makes it unlawful for you to be discriminated against in:

  • employment
  • access to goods, facilities and services
  • the management, buying or renting of land or property
  • education

Under the DDA, discrimination occurs where:

  • a disabled person is treated less favourably than someone else
  • the treatment is for a reason relating to the person's disability
  • the treatment cannot be justified

In some situations, less favourable treatment may amount to "direct discrimination" and this cannot be justified.

Discrimination may also occur where:

  • there is a failure to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person

There are also measures in the DDA covering harassment and victimisation.

Further development

From 1 September 2007, new legal provisions prohibiting disability discrimination by general qualifications bodies came into force. The new legal duties for general qualifications bodies will be similar to those already in place for bodies conferring professional and trade qualifications. Under the new duties, four forms of discrimination will be made unlawful for those conferring relevant general qualifications: direct discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments, unjustifiable disability-related discrimination and victimisation. In addition, disability-related harassment will also be made unlawful.