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What is a disability?

The statutory definition of ‘disability’

The question of whether you are disabled will be answered with reference to the all-important statutory definition:

“A person (P) has a disability if P has a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

Section 6(1), Equality Act 2010

Apart from some tidying up, this is the same as the definition that was contained in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Therefore, case law from the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 remains relevant.

The four key questions

In order to decide whether you are disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, four key questions must be asked:

  1. Do you have a physical or mental impairment?
  2. Does that impairment have an adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities?
  3. Is that effect substantial?
  4. Is that effect long-term?

Do you have a physical or mental impairment?

Does that impairment have an adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities?

Is that effect substantial?

Is that effect long-term?

These questions may overlap to a certain degree. However, a tribunal considering the question of disability should ensure that each step is considered separately and sequentially (Goodwin v Patent Office 1 [1999] IRLR 4 (EAT) .

Most Deaf BSL users will qualify, as will most severely to profoundly deaf people, as it is possible to show that your impairment (lack of hearing) has a substantial effect on your ability to carry out day-to-day activities (listening, communication), and in most cases, is likely to last for the rest of your life.

However, if you are hard of hearing, you may need to provide further evidence that you meet this definition, as there will be a question as to whether the effect on your ability to carry out day to day activities will be substantial enough.

References   [ + ]

1. [1999] IRLR 4 (EAT)