This guide is intended to provide a general and concise overview of disability discrimination law. Generally, disability discrimination is mostly covered by one single piece of legislation – the Equality Act 2010 (EA 10). Prior to this, the law was mostly covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA).
The Equality Act 2010 (which incorporates the former DDA) came into force on October 2010. The new act was introduced to merge the previous laws on anti-discrimination into one single legislation: i.e. to act as one unified umbrella law for discrimination protection. The new law offers protection beyond just the disabled: it also covers age, sex, race, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, and religion or belief. These categories are what the law refers to as ‘protected characteristics’.
The legal definition of discrimination
A person can be said to have been discriminated against when they have been treated less favourably than someone else (a comparator) and that the treatment is for a reason related to the person’s protected characteristic (e.g. their disability).
Definition of a disabled person under section 6(1) of the EA 10
The section states that: “A person (P) has a disability [for the purposes of the Act] if P has a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
Types of disability discrimination
Discrimination law can often be confusing as there is more than one form, or way, that a person could be discriminated against. Currently, the types of discrimination a person can claim, include:
- Direct Disability Discrimination.
- Discrimination arising in consequence of a person’s disability (which lawyers often refer to as ‘Discrimination Arising From’).
- Indirect Disability Discrimination.
- Failure to make Reasonable Adjustments.
If you are disabled or have had a disability, the EA 10 makes it unlawful for you to be discriminated against in:
- The course of your employment.
- Your access to goods, facilities and services.
- The management, buying or renting of land or property.
- Your education.
There is additional legislation, apart from the EA 10, that protects your rights to health and social care entitlements. Please click on our community care section if you wish to know more. The tabs above also provide more detail on the specific times for claims relating to Higher Education, Goods and Services and Employment law.
Legal aid for discrimination
You can obtain Legal Aid/Legal Help for discrimination claims if you pass the merits and financial eligibility criteria (please click on this link to go to our Legal Aid page). You can also go to the Government’s website (by clicking here) to find your nearest legal aid adviser.
Individuals wanting to access free discrimination advice or representation should first call the telephone gateway which is: Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345. If they think you are eligible for advice, then you should be granted immediate and direct access to a specialist discrimination lawyer.
Other useful sources of information on disability discrimination law
- Civil Legal Advice (CLA) – CLA can take on discrimination cases
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission
- Government Equalities Guidance for Disability and Equality
- The Equality Act 2010
- Citizens Advice – Goods and Services discrimination info
- Citizens Advice – Consumer template letters (non-specific to discrimination)
- Equality Advisory Service
- Find a Legal Aid Adviser