Disability is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment (including sensory impairments) which has both a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

A substantial adverse effect is something which is more than minor or trivial. It is a limitation which goes beyond the normal difference in ability which might exist among people.

A long term effect is an impairment which:

  • has lasted at least 12 months, or
  • where the total period for which it lasts is likely to be at least 12 months, or
  • which is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected

Normal day-to-day activities are those which most people carry out on a fairly regular and frequent basis, such as walking, driving, cooking, eating, lifting and carrying everyday objects, writing, continence, taking part in normal social interaction and forming social relationships. 

Where a person is taking measures to treat or correct an impairment, and, but for those measures, the impairment would have a substantial adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, it is still to be treated as though it does have such an effect.

"Hidden" impairments are also covered - for example, mental illness or mental health problems, and conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy.

Cancer, HIV infection and multiple sclerosis are deemed disabilities under the Act, as is severe disfigurement.

Progressive and recurring conditions will amount to disabilities in certain circumstances.

Social model of disability

The social model of disability says that disability is created by barriers in society. These barriers generally fall into three categories:

  • the environment - including inaccessible buildings and services
  • people's attitudes - stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice
  • organisations - inflexible policies, practices and procedures.

This is in contrast to the medical model of disability where people think that disability is caused by an individual's health condition or impairment. The medical model says that by fixing their body, disabled people will be able to participate in society like everyone else. This is generally viewed as an outdated model that is not supported by disabled people or their organisations.

Further information

Baddac access

Baddac Access, who regularly liaise and consult with employers on access issues, planning issues, disability awareness training and general policies, procedures and working practices. They also have a helpline run by disabled volunteers.

For further information or assistance please contact Ron Shambley on 0161 253 6901.

Contact for Equality and Diversity