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Disability Legislation basics

Many people have got a little bemused with the legislation surrounding disability – and no wonder as there have been some pretty major changes since the Disability Discrimination Act was passed in 1995. Read on for the highlights and links to further information.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Legal definition of Disability

The definition above can cover a wide variety of people, many of whom may not label themselves as disabled. Those with long term health conditions, mental health issues, learning disabilities including dyslexia and so on - these can all be defined as disabled people under the act, depending on the circumstances.

For the purposes of the Act:

  • substantial means neither minor nor trivial

  • long term means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months (including recurring or fluctuating conditions)

  • normal day-to-day activities include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping

  • a normal day-to-day activity must affect one of the 'capacities' listed in the Act which include mobility, manual dexterity, speech, hearing, seeing and memory

Some conditions, such as a tendency to set fires and hay fever, are specifically excluded.

People who have had a disability in the past that meets this definition are also covered by the scope of the Act. There are additional provisions relating to people with progressive conditions.

An amendment to the Act in 2005 refined the definition of disability. It ensured that people with HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis are deemed to be covered by the DDA effectively from the point of diagnosis, rather than from the point when the condition has some adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

If you want to find out more, you can download the snappily titled Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability below

Download the publication looking at the DDA definition of disability in more detail

Download further information