Disability Discrimination

What is Disability Discrimination?

Disability discrimination is when you are treated less well or put at a disadvantage for a reason that relates to your disability. The treatment could be a one-off action, the application of a rule or policy or the existence of physical or communication barriers which make accessing something difficult or impossible. The discrimination does not have to be intentional to be unlawful.

Disability includes :

  • total or partial loss of body function or a body part
  • the presence of organisms (such as HIV or Hepatitis C) that may cause disease or disability, malformation or disfigurement of the body
  • mental or psychological diseases or disorders
  • conditions or disorders that may result in a person learning more slowly.

The law protects people who have had a disability in the past and those who, because of an existing medical condition, may have a disability in the future.

Different types of disability discrimination :

There are six main types of disability discrimination:

  • direct discrimination
  • indirect discrimination
  • failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • discrimination arising from disability
  • harassment
  • victimisation

Direct discrimination

This happens when someone treats you worse than another person in a similar situation because of disability. For example:

  • during an interview, a job applicant tells the potential employer that he has multiple sclerosis. The employer decides not to appoint him even though he’s the best candidate they have interviewed, because they assume he will need a lot of time off sick

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination happens when an organisation has a particular policy or way of working that has a worse impact on disabled people compared to people who are not disabled. Indirect disability discrimination is unlawful unless the organisation or employer is able to show that there is a good reason for the policy and it is proportionate. This is known as objective justification. For example:

  • a job advert states that all applicants must have a driving licence. This puts some disabled people at a disadvantage because they may not have a licence because, for example, they have epilepsy. If the advert is for a bus driver job, the requirement will be justified. If it is for a teacher to work across two schools, it will be more difficult to justify

Failure to make reasonable adjustments

Under the Equality Act employers and organisations have a responsibility to make sure that disabled people can access jobs, education and services as easily as non-disabled people. This is known as the ‘duty to make reasonable adjustments’.

 

Disabled people can experience discrimination if the employer or organisation doesn’t make a reasonable adjustment. This is known as a ‘failure to make reasonable adjustments’. For example:

  • an employee with mobility impairment needs a parking space close to the office. However, her employer only gives parking spaces to senior managers and refuses to give her a designated parking space

What is reasonable depends on a number of factors, including the resources available to the organisation making the adjustment. If an organisation already has a number of parking spaces it would be reasonable for it to designate one close to the entrance for the employee.

Discrimination arising from disability

The Equality Act also protects people from discrimination arising from disability. This protects you from being treated badly because of something connected to your disability, such as having an assistance dog or needing time off for medical appointments. This does not apply unless the person who discriminated against you knew you had a disability or ought to have known. For example:

  • a private nursery refuses to give a place to a little boy because he is not toilet trained. His parents have told them that he isn’t toilet trained because he has Hirschsprung’s Disease, but they still refuse to give him a place. This is discrimination arising from the little boy’s disability
  • an employee with cancer is prevented from receiving a bonus because of time she has taken off to receive treatment

Discrimination arising from disability is unlawful unless the organisation or employer is able to show that there is a good reason for the treatment and it is proportionate. This is known as objective justification. For example:

  • an employee whose eyesight has seriously deteriorated cannot do as much work as his non-disabled colleagues. If his employer sought to dismiss him, after ruling out the possibility of redeployment, the employer would need to show that this was for good reason and was proportionate

Harassment

Harassment occurs when someone treats you in a way that makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded. for example:

  • a disabled woman is regularly sworn at and called names by colleagues at work because of her disability

Harassment can never be justified. However, if an organisation or employer can show it did everything it could to prevent people who work for it from behaving like that, you will not be able to make a claim for harassment against it, although you could make a claim against the harasser.

Victimization

This is when you are treated badly because you have made a complaint of discrimination under the Equality Act. It can also occur if you are supporting someone who has made a complaint of discrimination. For example:

  • an employee has made a complaint of disability discrimination. The employer threatens to sack them unless they withdraw the complaint
  • an employer threatens to sack a member of staff because he thinks she intends to support a colleague’s disability discrimination claim

Disability Discrimination Law Explained:

What is the duty to make reasonable adjustments? | Equality law: discrimination explained

Disability Discrimination and Landlords

Federal Laws prevent a landlord from discriminating against a disabled person, whether their disability is physical or mental. A potential landlord isn’t allowed to ask questions about your disability or ask for proof of your disability.

  • A potential landlord may, however, screen disabled applicants according to the same financial standards and other criteria as anyone else.
  • A landlord must accommodate a disabled person’s needs, at the landlord’s expense. This may include:
  • Installing a ramp for wheelchair access
  • Providing close parking if parking is provided to other tenants
  • Modifying kitchens by lowering countertops and installing more accessible and safer appliances and plumbing.

A landlord doesn’t have to make modifications that would make the space unusable by a future tenant. One compromise is to make accommodations temporary, so that they can be removed at the end of your lease. The landlord must approve any tenant improvements ahead of time.

The landlord is entitled to ask for medical proof that the modification is necessary, such as a note from your doctor. The doctor doesn’t have to explain why you need the accommodation, only that the modification is necessary.

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