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Disability Rights United Kingdom

What exactly are your rights if you have a disability? Which laws protect disabled people from discrimination in the United Kingdom?

DISABILITY RIGHTS UK: This section explains disability discrimination and the rights of people with disabilities.

The rights of a disabled person protect them from discrimination in most areas. They key disability rights include:

We refer to the Equality Act 2010 and the United Nations (UN) Convention on disability rights. The enforcement of these laws help to protect and promote disability rights in the UK.

Disability Rights Education UK

Disabled people have rights while they are learning. Schools and education providers must not give ‘unfavourable’ treatment to disabled students. Doing so is breaking the law and examples include:

  • Direct discrimination (e.g. a refusal of admission to a student because of their disability).
  • Indirect discrimination (e.g. having application forms in only one format may be inaccessible for some disabled people).
  • Discrimination arising from a disability (e.g. preventing a disabled pupil from taking a break outside because it takes too long to get there).
  • Harassment (e.g. a teacher insults a disabled student for lack of attention when the disability slows their concentration).
  • Victimisation (e.g. the suspension of a disabled student after they complained about disability-related harassment).

Making Reasonable Adjustments for Disabled Students

As an education provider you have a duty for making reasonable adjustments for disabled learners. Thus, you must ensure disabled students do not get discriminated against. Changes may include offering ancillary aids and giving extra support. Examples could be offering specialist equipment or trained teaching staff.

The ‘reasonable adjustment’ duty does not apply to all schools. They do not need to make alterations to the physical features of the building (e.g. adding ramps). But, schools must ensure their building is accessible for disabled pupils. This should occur as part of their total planning duties.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Identifying and helping to assess children with special educational needs and disabilities is a duty. It applies to nurseries, ‘publicly’ funded pre-schools, state schools and to local authorities.

They must review any child with an EHC plan or a statement of SEND each year. The child gets a full review from the age of nine (9). The review assesses what support they will need in preparation of adulthood.

Disability Issues in Higher Education

There should be a person in charge of disability issues at all universities and higher education colleges. This appointment is someone that disabled people can talk to about getting support.

Note: Do you need further help with your day-to-day living needs? You can apply for a health and social care assessment by social services.

Disability Rights Employment Discrimination

Employers who discriminate against people because of their disability are acting ‘unlawfully’. Under the Equality Act 2010, people with disabilities get protection in areas such as:

  • Aptitude or proficiency skill tests
  • Discipline and the handling of grievance procedures
  • Dismissal or Redundancy
  • Interviewing arrangements
  • Job application forms
  • Job offers
  • Job promotion, transfers, and opportunities for specialist training
  • The terms of employment (including pay)

Making Reasonable Adjustments in the Workplace

As an employer, you must make ‘reasonable adjustments‘ at your place of work. The aim is to avoid putting a disabled person at a disadvantage. They should get close to the same treatment as a non-disabled person in the workplace. This may mean adjusting the working hours or providing specialist equipment to do a job.

Rights of Disabled People during Recruitment

Employers can make limited enquiries about health or disability during staff recruitment. Reasons for an employer to ask about someone’s health or a disability may be:

  • Because they plan to increase the number of disabled people that they employ.
  • To help determine if you can perform a task that is an essential component of the work.
  • To help monitoring or check whether you can participate in an interview.
  • To help the interviewers determine whether they need to make reasonable adjustments during a selection process.
  • Because they need to know for national security checks purposes.

The interview application form may ask whether an applicant has a health condition or a disability. Thus, consider whether it is a discriminatory question at that stage of recruitment.

Redundancy and Retirement

Being disabled cannot be the only reason to get chosen for redundancy. The redundancy selection process must be fair and balanced for all employees. Thus, if you become disabled, your employer cannot force you into early retirement.

Disability Health Rights

It is unlawful for healthcare providers and social services to subject people with disabilities to acts of disability discrimination. This extends to hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, and dental practices. This may include:

  • Failing to make reasonable adjustments.
  • Provide reasonable ancillary aids and services, including:
    • Sign language interpreters.
    • Hearing loops.
    • Publications in different formats.

Disability Rights Police and Policing

What if a person with a disability gets questioned or interviewed at a police station? In this case, the impairment that you have will determine your disability rights.

People who are Deaf, Hearing-impaired, or have Speech Difficulties

As a rule, the police should make arrangements for an interpreter to be present in the room with you. But, there are exceptions when the police can interview you without an interpreter. An example is if a delay would result in harm to other people, to property, or to evidence.

People with Learning Disabilities

Special police rules and regulations apply when they interview a person with a learning disability. In cases such as these, a responsible person or ‘appropriate adult‘ must be present during the interview.

The appropriate adult should not be working for the police. They should also have experience of dealing with people who have learning disabilities.

But, the police have the power to perform an interview without an appropriate adult. An example is if a delay would result in harm to other people, to property, or to evidence.

Your Rights to get Medical Treatment

If the police keep you in a cell you will have the right to get a medical examination by a healthcare worker. A healthcare worker can be a nurse or a paramedic. In some cases, it may be a police surgeon (aka a Forensic Medical Examiner).

You can refuse to get examined by the healthcare worker that the police provide. Thus, you can choose your own general practitioner (GP) instead (if they are available). There may be a charge for this service and the police will note down any payment made.

The Equality Act 2010 and UN Convention

The Equality Act 2010 protects people with disabilities from discrimination. The legal rights it provides includes areas of:

  • Access to goods, services and facilities
  • Buying and renting land or property
  • Education
  • Employment

The UK Equality Act 2010 also protects the rights of those having an association with a disabled person. Thus, it applies most to a carer or a parent, for example.

United Nations (UN) Convention on Disability Rights

The United Kingdom agreed to the UN Convention on disability rights. The purpose is to protect and promote the rights of disabled people. Read more about the UN Convention on disability rights from the ‘Disability Unit‘.

Furthermore, in June 2021, the United Kingdom reiterated its commitment to global disability rights and inclusion and unwavering support for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Note: You may qualify for legal aid to help with the legal costs of getting discriminated against. Contact the Civil Legal Advice for further information.

Mental Health Issues and Disability

As defined under the Equality Act 2010, a mental health condition will be considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on a person’s normal day-to-day activity.

The definition of ‘long term’ effect is when the condition lasts, or is expected to last, for a period of at least twelve (12) months.

The definition of ‘normal day-to-day activity’ is something that people do in a normal day and on a regular basis. So, it would include daily activities such as using a personal computer, working for a set number of hours, and interacting with other people.

Note: Mental health conditions create other challenges if you’re in employment and become disabled. But, you would be able to get support in the workplace from your employer.

Among the most common types of mental health conditions that may lead to a disability, are:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Schizophrenia

Note: You may be considered as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a long-term mental health condition. The mental health charity ‘Mind‘ are helping to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone.

Disability Rights on Education, Employment, and Police in United Kingdom