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Disability discrimination

This advice applies to Scotland

The Equality Act 2010 says you mustn’t be discriminated against because of your disability.

Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. If you've experienced unlawful discrimination, you can take action. If you want to take action for unlawful discrimination, you will have to show you have a disability which meets the definition given in the Act.

Read this page to find out more about what counts as a disability under the Equality Act.

Top tips

The Equality Act 2010 has its own definition of disability. To decide if something’s a disability, you need to check:

  • is it a physical or mental impairment?
  • is it automatically a disability under the Act?
  • if not, what’s the effect of the impairment on your daily life?

It’s not the cause of the impairment which is important, but the effect it has on your life.

What’s meant by disability?

A disability is a physical or mental condition which has a long-term and substantial effect on your daily life.

Some conditions are automatically treated as a disability under the Equality Act. If you have one of these conditions and suffer discrimination because of it, you can make a claim for unlawful discrimination.

If you don't have one of these conditions, and you want to make a claim for disability discrimination, you will have to show you have a disability which meets the definition given in the Act.

How does the Equality Act 2010 define a disability?

The Equality Act says a disability is a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day- to- day activities.

Which conditions are automatically treated as a disability under the Equality Act?

The following conditions are automatically treated as a disability under the Equality Act:

  • cancer
  • HIV infection
  • multiple sclerosis
  • severe disfigurement - this does not include tattoos and piercings
  • if you’re certified blind, severely sight impaired, sight impaired or partially sighted by a consultant ophthalmologist.

If you have one of these conditions and you suffer discrimination because of it, you can make a claim for unlawful discrimination.

Conditions which might be treated as a disability under the Equality Act

There are some types of physical and mental conditions which might be treated as a disability under the Equality Act depending on the effect they have on your daily life.

Here are examples of physical and mental conditions which might be a disability under the Act:

  • problems with your sight or hearing
  • conditions where the effects vary over time or come in episodes such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and ME
  • progressive conditions such as motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy and forms of dementia
  • conditions which affect certain organs such as heart disease, asthma, and strokes
  • learning disabilities
  • learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia
  • autistic spectrum disorders
  • mental health conditions - for example, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorders, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder
  • impairments due to injury to the body or brain.

If you want to claim you've experienced discrimination because of one of these conditions, you will have to prove the condition has a long-term and substantial effect on your daily life.

Conditions which don't count as a disability under the Act

Some conditions don’t count as a disability under the Equality Act, regardless of their effect on your daily life . They are:

  • a tendency to start fires or steal
  • a tendency to physical or sexual abuse of others
  • exhibitionism or voyeurism
  • hay fever- except where it aggravates another condition.

If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol

If you’re addicted to non-prescribed drugs such as alcohol or nicotine, this doesn't count as a disability under the Equality Act. But conditions which are caused by or linked to your addiction - for example, liver disease or depression, could be a disability under the Act.

Discrimination because of a past disability

It’s unlawful to discriminate against you because of a condition you've had in the past which counts as a disability under the Equality Act.

Example

You’ve suffered from a mental health condition in the past, although you've since recovered. Your condition had a substantial and adverse long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day- to- day activities. This means it's treated as a disability under the Equality Act. It would be unlawful to discriminate against you now because you had this mental health condition in the past.

Next steps

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)

Euan’s Guide

Euan's Guide features accessibility reviews and recommendations from disabled people and their friends and families for venues nationwide to assist all individuals with accessibility needs, and the people they spend time with.

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