UK: Disability Discrimination Law

UK: Disability Discrimination LawThe Disability Discrimination Act 1995 deals with discrimination against disabled people. The Act applies throughout the UK. It outlaws such discrimination in relation to employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services and the sale and letting of property. The UK Government is empowered to make regulations setting minimum standards for the accessibility of land-based public transport for disabled people. It also established the National Disability Council and the Northern Ireland Disability Council to advise the Government on discrimination against disabled people.Part I of the Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which has, or has had, a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.It is unlawful for an employer, who has 15 or more employees, to discriminate against a disabled employee or job applicant by treating that person less favourably than the employer treats or would treat others. The reason for the less favourable treatment must relate to the person’s disability. Discrimination may be justified, however, if the reason for it is both material to the circumstances of the particular case and is substantial.Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to working practices and to the physical environment where these would place a disabled employee or job applicant at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled. Where the employer fails to make such adjustment, this will amount to unlawful discrimination. If the employer leases premises, the landlord must not unreasonably refuse to consent to alterations made by the employer to comply with the obligations imposed by the Act.The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 applies to England, Scotland and Wales. The Act amends or extends existing provisions in the DDA 1995, including:making it unlawful for operators of transport vehicles to discriminate against disabled peoplemaking it easier for disabled people to rent property and for tenants to make disability-related adaptationsmaking sure that private clubs with 25 or more members cannot keep disabled people out, just because they have a disabilityextending protection to cover people who have HIV infection, cancer and multiple sclerosis from the moment they are diagnosedensuring that discrimination law covers all the activities of the public sectorrequiring public bodies to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people.The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) was set up by the government to help secure civil rights for disabled people and produces guidance and further information on which areas are covered by anti-discrimination law for disabled people.The development of legislation to improve the rights of disabled people is an ongoing process. From 1 October 2004, Part 3 of the DDA 1995 has required businesses and other organisations to take reasonable steps to tackle physical features that act as a barrier to disabled people who want to access their services. This may mean to remove, alter or provide a reasonable means of avoiding physical features of a building which make access impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people. Examples include:putting in a ramp to replace stepsproviding larger, well defined signs for people with a visual impairmentimproving access to toilet or washing facilitiesBusinesses and organisations are called ‘service providers’ and include shops, restaurants, leisure centres and places of worship.

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