A person is held to be disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. ‘Long-term’ is considered to be for more than 12 months or for the rest of the person’s life. In the case of some impairments, such as cancer and HIV, the person is deemed to be disabled from the point of diagnosis, and some conditions, such as addiction to alcohol and seasonal allergic rhinitis, are not considered to be an impairment.
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in terms of services provided to them as members of the public, as well as in the field of employment rights.
Workplace managers should take care in avoiding disability discrimination in advertisements, recruitment, terms and conditions of employment, benefits provided to staff, dismissals and victimisation. The Act prohibits several different types of discriminatory behaviour:
• Direct discrimination.
• Indirect discrimination.
• Discrimination arising from disability.
• Failure to comply with a duty to make reasonable adjustments.
It also prohibits employers from asking pre-employment health questions, except for specific purposes.
A disabled person should not be put at a disadvantage due to the nature of the premises of an organisation. Reasonable steps must therefore be taken to prevent this happening. This can result in the need to make physical changes to the premises and its features, or the provision of auxiliary aids.
Evacuation plans also need to be considered in the event of an emergency. A fire risk assessment needs to demonstrate that, as far as is reasonable, all needs of ‘relevant persons’ have been considered, including disabled people.