The Equality Act 2010 brings together legislation and sets out rights which should protect all UK citizens, including disabled people, from discrimination and being treated unfairly in comparison with others. These rights cover most areas of life including: employment, education, dealing with the police, and the buying, selling or giving away services or goods to the public or a section of the public. Comprehensive Guidance is available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Act, together with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, help to enforce, protect and promote the rights of disabled people
A disabled person is defined in the Act as person who has a physical or mental impairment and this has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Employers must not discriminate against an individual because of an impairment. The Equality Act 2010 protects disabled people and covers area including:
- application forms
- interview arrangements
- aptitude or proficiency tests
- job offers
- terms of employment, including pay
- promotion, transfer and training opportunities
- dismissal or redundancy
- discipline and grievances
Comprehensive information about the practical implications for employers and employees is available from ACAS. For example, an employer has to make what are called “reasonable adjustments” to avoid a disabled person being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people in the workplace. These measures might be, for example, adjusting working hours or providing a special piece of equipment to help do the job.
Further, an employer who is recruiting staff may make limited enquiries about a person’s health or impairment, but needs to think carefully about whether the question is one that is appropriate at that stage, such as helping decide if or how they can take part in the interview, or carry out a task that is an essential part of the work. Similarly, a disabled person cannot be chosen for redundancy or forced to retire just because they have an impairment. Any selection process must be fair and balanced for all employees. More information can be found on the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development website.
Schools or other education providers must not treat disabled students unfavourably. This includes direct discrimination such as refusing admission to a student because of an impairment, or preventing a disabled pupil from going outside at break time because it takes too long to get there, as well as indirect discrimination, such as only providing application forms in one format that may not be accessible.
All publicly funded schools and local authorities must try to identify and help assess children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). All children’s education, health and care (EHC) plans or statements of special educational needs must be reviewed annually.
Students in further or higher education (including applicants) must not be discriminated against, harassed or victimised by their FE or HE Institution because of their impairment. For further information see Equality and Human Rights Commission website
If you’re being questioned or interviewed at a police station you have certain rights depending on your impairment. For example if you are deaf, hearing-impaired or have speech difficulties, the police should arrange for an interpreter to be present with you. A person with learning disabilities should only be interviewed when an “appropriate adult” is present
These are the modifications people or organisations may have to do make it easier for a disabled person to access or do something, and to avoid the risk of discriminating against that person. They fit into three broad categories:
- Changes to the way things are done if they are a barrier for disabled people, unless it’s unreasonable to do so. Examples might include, providing a separate designated parking space; offering flexible working patterns; providing a quiet place to work; or allowing meetings to be recorded on tape.
- Changes to a physical feature of a building if it makes it difficult for a disabled person to access or use it, again, unless it is unreasonable to do so. Examples might include, avoiding steps and stairs by providing a ramp or stairway lift; providing more lighting and clearer signs; or making a doorway wider.
- Provide reasonable additional aids or services. Examples might include a portable induction loop for people with hearing aids; test-to-speech speech-to-text software; a specially adapted telephone; or making information available in alternative formats, such as Braille or CD’s.
The sorts of “reasonable adjustments” that people or organisations need to take will depend on circumstances involved, including the size and nature of the organisation involved. These measure need not be expensive or complex to make a huge difference to the individuals affected.