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Understanding the Disability Discrimination Act

The UK Disability Discrimination Act was passed to protect individuals with disabilities from being treated unfairly when it came to employment, housing and important life basics. It offers disabled individuals a way to protect their rights through legal action. It also allows them the opportunity to prove themselves as valuable and productive members of society.

What Signifies a Disability?

A disability or handicap is a condition that limits a person’s capacity to perform in various ways. Some disabilities are more visible than others. Learning disabilities and mental illness can result in certain types of disabilities that can’t be seen but are recognizable in behaviors or in the way individuals perform a task.

Disabilities can be very mild to extremely severe. An individual who learns to live with their disability and accentuate the skills they have can overcome much of the stigma associated with being disable. They can choose to be a survivor and become proficient in the skills they possess, or they can become victims of their disability and only do what is necessary to get by. Each person should be able to make that choice for themselves and work within their comfort zone to achieve their goals.

How Are People with Disabilities Discriminated Against?

The type of disability a person has determines how they are discriminated against. A person with a physical disability may not be able to gain access to a building if no wheelchair ramp is available. A person who is deaf may not be able to communicate with others if there is no way for them to make themselves understood. In most cases, discrimination is unintentional. The majority of companies do not want to turn away a paying customer, but have overlooked the fact that people with certain types of disabilities cannot gain access to their store or office.

Individuals with learning disabilities may be overlooked because they are unable to comprehend or understand specific instructions. This is changing, however and more teachers are being taught how to transcend their barriers associated with certain learning disabilities such as dyslexia, autism, Asperger’s and ADHD. New techniques and learning styles can benefit children whether or not they have been diagnosed with a learning disability.

Where Does Discrimination Occur?

Discrimination can occur anywhere and in various situations. Whether it is intentional or not, the effects can cause long lasting damage. Most people who have some form of disability are discriminated against in a variety of ways. Rarely is discrimination limited to one area of a person’s life. It is a safe bet that if they have experienced problems in one area, they have experienced in other areas as well.

  • Work. In the workplace, it is common to exclude someone who is different. While not necessarily true, it often is the reason many qualified people are overlooked for high-end positions.
  • School. Schools are supposed to treat each student equally and allow for variations in ability. This is not always the case, however. In a school setting, satisfactory achievement is the goal for almost task performed. If a student cannot achieve or succeed without the assistance of a teacher or a peer, they are often overlooked.
  • Housing. Apartment complexes are also known to discriminate against individuals with disabilities. Narrow staircases and hallways make it difficult for someone in a wheelchair to gain access to an apartment or move freely once inside. In some cases, managers may refuse an applicant if they have an extensive history of mental illness. The fact that a person’s behavior can get out of hand can bring up the question of liability on behalf of the apartment complex.
  • Social/Goods and Services. In the past, restaurants, movie theaters and shopping centers were not required to be handicap accessible. Today, however, much of that has changed due to positive legislation that requires local businesses to make their property accessible to disabled individuals. Creating access points for motorized wheelchairs or wheeled carts is now common when designing new homes and commercial buildings.

In essence, discrimination can occur anywhere at any time. There are no set guidelines or prerequisites. When discrimination occurs, it is up to everyone involved to rectify the situation and make sure it does not happen again.

What Is the Disability Discrimination Act?

The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for a person, business or group to discriminate against an individual solely because of a disability. In its most basic forms, the Act requires every person to have the same rights and liberties as those who do not have a disability. While it is unrealistic to expect a blind person to be able to read written instructions or a paraplegic to be able to perform jobs that require walking from place to place, it does not mean they can be excluded from jobs that are within their abilities.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

In the United Kingdom, the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 is in effect in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Act is designed to prevent individuals with various kinds of disabilities from being discriminated against. The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 addressed many of the issues disabled persons’ faced on a regular basis. It addresses discrimination issues that pertain to public businesses, schools, the workplace, among others.

The Act goes into detail as to what exactly constitutes a “disability” and what actions on behalf of a business, person or group can be considered discriminatory. The Act also details what kinds of penalties will be levied against those who violate the law. In 1995, lawmakers began to take a close look at how individuals with disabilities were treated. They took into consideration statistics involving disabled individuals in both the workplace and school settings, and prepared legislation that would support a system that allowed each person, disabled or not, the same opportunities.

The Act goes into great detail as to how a person must file a discrimination complaint. It also discusses the appeals process and what happens after a case has ended. It discusses the various outcomes and what rights both parties have once the case is closed. Each case is different to an extent, but the rules that govern discrimination practices apply to almost every type of situation. Legal proceedings are outlined for when an issue cannot be resolved without some type of mediation or assistance.

The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 also called for the creation of the National Disability Council. The Council would exist to help individuals with disabilities of all kinds achieve their goals and be given the opportunity to live a normal life. The National Disability Council has between 10 and 20 members at all times and functions as a corporate body. Members of the Council are appointed by the Secretary of State and as is the Chairman who manages the group. It is not under the control of the government per se, and operates as its own governing entity.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 Summary

The Disability Discrimination Act of 2005 picks up where the 1995 version left off. A few years after the 1995 Act was put into effect, Parliament interviewed many people who the Act was supposed to have benefited. They compiled all of the information from the interviews and began to look for new ways to make the original Act better.

In 2005, a new version of the legislation was enacted, broadening the scope of the original. Many of the changes to legislation involved individuals that were HIV positive, had cancer or other debilitating conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or ALS. It also clarified the legal stance on mental illness and discriminatory practices that were often associated with it.

In 2006, the Equality and Human Rights Commission was formed to help people get answers to many of their questions. The Commission took over, in part, for the Disability Rights Commission. A book titled the “Codes of Practice” was supposed to act as a guide for both parties, those were being discriminated against and those who were trying to treat them fairly.

With the new legislation, a much broader view of disabilities was established. Disabled individuals have more sound avenues of recourse and are better able to navigate the new system so that they can be treated more fairly.

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