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Provision of goods and services - discrimination because of something connected to your disability

If you’ve been treated unfairly by a trader or service provider, like a bank, energy provider or local authority, and it’s because of something connected to your disability, you may have been discriminated against.

The Equality Act 2010 calls this discrimination arising from disability. If you’ve been discriminated against, you may be able to do something about it.

Read this page to find out more about discrimination arising from disability when you buy or receive goods and services.

Top tips

As well as being protected against discrimination, you have other rights under consumer law. If you’ve been treated unfairly but it doesn’t count as discrimination, there may be other ways of sorting out the problem.

See our consumer pages for more information.

What’s meant by discrimination arising from disability?

Discrimination arising from disability is when you’re treated unfairly because of something connected to your disability rather than the disability itself.

Here are examples of things connected to a disability:

  • the need for regular toilet breaks
  • restricted diet
  • need for an assistance dog
  • behavioural issues
  • speech or movement difficulties
  • difficulties reading and writing or understanding certain things
  • the need to use a wheelchair or other special equipment
  • the need to use a BSL interpreter.

Example

You're blind and have asked your energy provider to send you the bills in Braille. You've now discovered you're in arrears as you hadn't been paying the right amount. This is because your provider hadn't sent you any information about this in Braille, or even phoned you about it.They're now saying you must use a prepayment meter to pay off your debt.

This could be discrimination arising from disability as you're treated unfairly because of something connected to your disability and you can take action under the Equality Act.

In addition, you could complain to your energy provider that they've not complied with their duty to make reasonable adjustments. Theyshould have communicated with you in an appropriate way.

Can the trader or service provider justify discriminating against you?

If you make a complaint about discrimination arising from disability, the trader or service provider may be able to justify discriminating against you. They would have to show they have a good enough reason for doing so.

However, if they could have made reasonable adjustments to avoid you suffering a disadvantage in the first place, it will be more difficult to justify the discrimination.

Example

Your phone company has a policy of only speaking to the named account holder. You're deaf and when you call them using a registered interpreter they refuse to speak to her.

This could be discrimination arising from disability as you're being discriminated against because you need someone to phone on your behalf. This is something which is connected to your disability.

The phone company may try to justify their policy - for example, by saying it's necessary to ensure the security of your personal details. But it will be more difficult for them to justify their policy if they could have made reasonable adjustments to allow customers who are deaf to contact them by phone using an interpreter.

What if the trader or service provider doesn’t know you’re disabled?

Discrimination arising from disability is only unlawful if the trader or service provider knows you have a disability. In some circumstances, it will be obvious you have a disability. For example, if you use a wheelchair.

In other situations, it may not be so obvious that you’re disabled.

Should the trader or service provider take steps to find out if you’re disabled?

Even if it’s not obvious you're disabled, the trader or service provider should consider whether this is the case. The Equality Act says they must do all they can reasonably be expected to do to find out if you’re disabled.

Example

A shop keeper refuses to serve you because you seem drunk. In fact you have a disability which makes your speech slurred. Even if the shopkeeper doesn’t know you’re disabled, it might be reasonable to expect him to ask you about your behaviour before refusing to serve you.

If you have an ongoing relationship with a service provider, like a utility company, it may be reasonable to expect them to take steps to identify if you have a disability when you first apply for their services - for example, on a customer registration form. If they don’t do this, they may not be able to say they didn’t know you were disabled.

Next steps

You can find more information about your consumer rights in the consumer section:

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

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