Disability discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 protects disabled people from discrimination and there are several types of discrimination outlined within the Act.

Direct discrimination

It’s unlawful for someone to treat you less favourably simply because you are disabled. Example: David is refused entrance to his local night club because he is in a wheelchair and there is no ramp access. You can also be discriminated by association in which you may be treated less favourably because of your association with someone who is disabled, even if you yourself are not disabled. Example: Jane is refused service is a local shop because she has been campaigning for better access rights for disabled people. There is also discrimination by perception in which case you may be treated less favourably because someone thinks you have a disability even when you don’t. Example: Bob is passed over for promotion because his boss thinks he may have mental health problems. It’s also important to note that the duty to make reasonable adjustments does not extend to people associated with a disabled person or who are perceived to be disabled.

Indirect discrimination

This is where someone or an organisation has a policy or practice which is supposed to cover everybody equally but this ends up putting you at a disadvantage due to your disability. Example: Avril goes for a job which requires a driving licence even though the job role had no driving indicated. Due to her disability Avril is unable to drive and is therefore excluded from this role.

Discrimination arising from disability

This is where you are treated less favourably not because you are disabled but because of something that happens due to your disability. Example: Yvonne is refused service in a bar because they think she is drunk due to her speech impairment.


This is when someone behaves in a way which makes you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened because of your disability. Example: Janine has cerebral palsy and her neighbours make rude gestures about her disability and call her names.


This is when an organisation treats you less favourably because you have made an allegation of discrimination or you have supported someone who has made an allegation. Example: Shandi makes a complaint to the manager for her local shop about an assistant who made a hurtful comment about her disability and the shop manager has told her not to use the store again.

If you think your employer is discriminating against you because you are disabled, you should contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

ACAS provides information, advice, training, conciliation and other services for employers and employees to help prevent or resolve workplace problems. You can call their helpline on 08457 47 47 47 for free and confidential advice. If you’re thinking about lodging an Employment Tribunal claim, you will need to contact ACAS.

If you feel that you have experienced disability discrimination in any of the above forms and you wish to talk to someone about how to tackle the issues, contact the Equality Advisory Support Service freephone helpline on 0808 800 0082, which can advise and assist you on issues relating to equality and human rights but do not have the resources to give specific legal advice

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