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Showing you're disabled under the Equality Act

This advice applies to Scotland

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

Some conditions are automatically treated as a disability under the Equality Act. But if you don't have one of these conditions and you want to make a claim for disability discrimination, you will have to show the effect your condition has on your daily life to prove it's a disability.

Read this to find out more about the kinds of things you will have to show about your condition to prove it's a disability.

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.

How does the Equality Act define 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.

What are day-to-day activities?

Normal day-to-day activities are those carried out by most people on a regular basis.

For example:

  • walking or driving
  • washing or getting dressed
  • cooking or eating
  • using public transport
  • talking or hearing
  • writing, typing or reading
  • carrying or moving things
  • being able to concentrate or understand
  • being able to form social relationships.

What’s meant by substantial adverse effect?

To be considered a disability, your condition must have a substantial adverse effect on your daily life. This means it must have more than a minor effect. The condition doesn’t have to stop you from doing something completely, but it must make it more difficult. It may also be that you avoid doing certain things - for example, because they cause you a lot of pain or make you very tired.

Example

You have ME. Your condition makes it very difficult for you to do many daily activities such as getting dressed, walking and concentrating because of the extreme exhaustion you experience.

Example

You suffer from severe anxiety and agoraphobia. This means you avoid going outside as you often experience panic attacks when you’re in a public place.

In both these situations, it can be said that your condition has a substantial adverse effect on your daily life.

What if you have medical treatment or aids which make your condition better

You may receive medical treatment for your condition or use aids, such as a prosthesis or hearing aid which make your condition better. If you're in this situation, your condition will still be considered as having a substantial effect if without the treatment or aid, it's still likely to have this effect.

What if you have a condition which gets worse over time?

Some conditions start out has having a minor effect on your daily life, but get worse over time. This kind of condition is called a progressive condition - for example, dementia and motor neurone disease. With conditions like this, it doesn't matter if it only has a minor effect now. It can still be treated as a disability as long as it's having some effect on your daily life now and it's likely to have a substantial effect in the future.

Example

You've been diagnosed with dementia. Although the effects are quite minor at the moment, your condition is likely to get much worse in the future and have a substantial effect on your daily life. Your condition would be treated as a disability under the Equality Act.

What if you have treatment for a progressive condition which makes you better?

If you have treatment for a progressive condition which makes you better, you may no longer be treated as disabled. If the treatment makes you completely well, you'll no longer be treated as disabled. But if the condition isn't completely cured and still has some effects, you will still be treated as disabled.

What’s meant by long-term?

You must show the adverse effect your condition has on your life is long-term. This means you must be in one of the following situations:

  • the adverse effect has lasted for more than 12 months
  • the adverse effect is likely to last for more than 12 months
  • the adverse effect is likely to last for the rest of your life, if you're expetected to live for less than 12 months.

You may have a condition which later develops into another condition which is related to the first. If taken together, the adverse effects of these two related conditions last for more than 12 months, you will be considered as having a disability under the Equality Act.

Example

Last year you suffered from an anxiety disorder which had a substantial effect on your daily life. It lasted for 7 months. This then developed into depression which also had a substantial effect on your daily life and lasted for 9 months. Together, these conditions had an adverse effect for more than 12 months, so are considered to be long term. You would therefore be treated as having a disability under the Equality Act.

Recurring conditions

Some conditions have effects which re-occur, or which come in episodes. If you have a condition like this, you’re treated as having a disability under the Equality Act, even if the adverse effects don’t last for more than 12 months at a time.

You have to show that the adverse effects are likely to come back again in the future. Rheumatoid arthritis, ME and depression are examples of recurring conditions.

Example

You have inflammatory bowel disease. This is a chronic condition which comes in episodes. During one of your episodes you get severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea, which makes it very difficult for you to travel to work. The episode only lasts for a couple of weeks, but as it’s a chronic disease, it’s likely the happen again. Your condition would be treated as having a long-term effect.

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)

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