Disability and discrimination

Discrimination on the grounds of disability is unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), which covers employment, education, goods and services, and premises.  The Disability Equality Duty (DED) is a new legal duty, introduced by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, which means that every public body (including colleges and universities) will need to look actively at ways of promoting disability equality and eliminating discrimination and harassment. Such bodies are required to set out their plans in a Disability Equality Scheme, which must be publicly available.

Read UCU Advice on Disability Discrimination Law

Disability & the right to reasonable adjustments

Employers must make reasonable adjustments so that disabled staff are not substantially disadvantaged as a result of disability: but few people are aware of their rights or know how to request the adjustments they need. Sometimes people are able to do their jobs only at great additional cost to themselves, in terms of time, money, pain or stress.

Some possible adjustments might be obvious, like providing an appropriate office chair for someone with back pain, or screendreading software for someone who has a vision impairment.  But many other things should be considered, depending on the employee’s needs – for instance, flexible working (including different hours or working from home); changes to minor duties associated with the role; time off for treatment; providing disability equality training for colleagues and managers.

The Disability Discrimination Act gives rights to some people who might not normally describe themselves as ‘disabled’.  Depending on the effects of the condition in an individual case, it can cover people with:

  • long term conditions like heart disease, arthritis or repetitive strain injury;
  • diabetes or epilepsy, even if well controlled with or without medication;
  • mental health difficulties;
  • specific learning difficulties (like dyslexia);
  • severe allergies;
  • fluctuating conditions like fibromyalgia or depression;
  • vision impairments;
  • mobility difficulties.
  • Cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis are covered, as are disfigurements. People who are deaf or hard of hearing  also have rights under the Act.

Cardiff UCU can support members in getting the adjustments they need, and there is also a disability working group which is seeking opportunities to negotiate on better provision for disabled staff.

Cardiff UCU recently set up a working group on disability and discrimination. If you would like to join please contact CUCU by email ucu@cardiff.ac.uk, or telephone 029 2061 0461.

More information on disability equality is available from UCU at: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1938.