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Disability legislation

Discrimination on grounds of disability is prohibited in relation to education and training, employment and provision of goods, facilities and services. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in the areas of:
• Employment
• Provision of Goods and Services, including by private clubs
• Education
• Transport, including the duty to make reasonable adjustments

The DDA 1995 defines disabled people as those who have a long term health problem or disability which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities. This definition includes people with people with HIV infection, cancer or multiple sclerosis from the point of diagnosis (previously they were only covered when the disease began to have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their life).

Recent case law (Coleman v Attridge Law C 303/06) has suggested that the DDA should be read to provide protection people “associated with people with disabilities” e.g. parents caring for children with disabilities. This case is awaiting decision by the European Court of Justice.

The DDA 1995 specifically states that in relation to employment;
“where (a) any arrangements made by or on behalf of an employer, or (b) any physical feature of premises occupied by the employer, place the disabled person concerned at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled, it is the duty of the employer to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, for him to have to take in order to prevent the arrangements or feature having that effect.”  The DDA is the only piece of equality legislation to make provision for reasonable adjustments.

The DDA 1995 defines discrimination as being where, for a reason which relates to the disabled person’s disability, s/he treats him / her less favourably than s/he treats or would treat others to whom that reason does not or would not; and the treatment was not justifiable, then this constitutes discrimination.

The DDA 1995 was amended in 2005 to include the Disability Equality Duty, known as the general duty, into the Act. The duty is aimed at tackling systemic discrimination, and ensuring that public authorities build disability equality into everything that they do.

Public Authorities, when carrying out their functions, must now have due regard to the need to:
• Promote equality of opportunity between disabled people and other people
• Eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the DDA
• Eliminate harassment of disabled people that is related to their disability
• Promote positive attitudes towards disabled people
• Encourage participation by disabled people in public life
• Take steps to meet disabled peoples’ needs, even if this requires most favourable treatment

The DDA 1995 also gives the Secretary of State, or in Scotland the Scottish Ministers, the power to introduce regulations on public authorities known as the specific duty. Key to the specific duty is the requirement to produce a Disability Equality Scheme. A number of bodies in Scotland are designated as being required to produce a specific scheme.

The general and specific duties apply in England, Scotland and Wales. The specific duties in are the same in all key respects across GB, except in relation to education in Scotland, where the duties are different due to differences in legislation.

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