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The Definition of Disability in the Equality Act 2010

The definition of disability for the purposes of disability discrimination is complex but is generally wider than most people would instinctively assume.

The starting point is that in order for someone to qualify as disabled he must have an impairment which has a substantial adverse effect on his ability to carry out at least one normal day to day activity. Normal Day to day activities do not include highly specialised work or leisure activities such as the skills of a watchmaker, but they are not limited to activities which most people do every day. For example it has been held that a worker who suffers extreme exhaustion only when working night shifts does count as disabled because shift working is an activity found in a variety of employments even though only a minority of people work shifts.

If a person has an impairment which has a substantial adverse effect on his ability to carry out at least one normal day to day activity, then normally that has to last, or be expected to last, at least 12 months in order to qualify as a disability. However if the impairment lasts less than 12 months, the person still counts as disabled if the impairment could well recur in the future. For example a heart attack has a substantial adverse effect on the sufferer's ability to carry out day to day activities while he is actually suffering the attack, but having recovered he may be perfectly able afterwards to carry out all normal day to day activities. Nevertheless if it is the case that he could well suffer a heart attack again at some point in the future, then he would still qualify as disabled. 

A further point which makes it easier to qualify as disabled is that the effect of ongoing medical treatment is ignored. So in the case of the person who suffers a heart attack, he may be prescribed long term medication to reduce the risk of his suffering further attacks. The medication may be so good that providing it is taken, the risk of a further heart attack is remote, but nevertheless the person will still qualify as disabled because the effect of medical treatment is ignored. The question is if the person did not take the medication, is it the case that he could well have another attack at some point in the future?  If the answer to that is Yes, then the person counts as disabled. 



The above explanation of the law is only an overview and in order to be reasonably concise I have had to leave some details out - details which are likely to affect what the law would say about your own situation. So please do not rely on the above but Contact me for advice   

This page was lasted updated in August 2016          Disclaimer