Our Conduct and Behaviour: customer service to disabled people: definition of Equality Act 2010 - case studies
The Equality Act 2010 defines a disabled person as a person with a disability, and then goes on to define a disability as below.
A person has a disability for the purposes of the Act if he or she
- has a physical or mental impairment, and
- the impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities.
The Act says the effect of an impairment is long term if
- the effect has lasted for 12 months, or
- where the total period for the effect is likely to be at least 12 months, or
- the effect is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected.
The Act describes a substantial effect as one that is more than a minor or trivial effect.
You must always make reasonable adjustments for all disabled people.
Case studies 1, 2 and 3 below help convey the meaning of substantial, long term and normal day to day activities when considering the adverse effect of a mental impairment in relation to the definition of a disability.
Note that the Equality Act 2010 also applies to a person who is no longer disabled but who met the requirements of the definition in the past. A person who continues to experience debilitating effects as a result of treatment for a past disability would also be covered by the Act. Case studies 4 and 5 below help convey this.
Case study 1: helps to clarify the meaning of ‘long term effect’ when considering the effects of mental impairment.
A young man has bipolar affective disorder, a recurring form of depression. The first episode occurred in months one and two of a 13 month period. The second episode took place in month 13.
This man will satisfy the requirements of the definition in respect of the meaning of long term, because the adverse effects have recurred beyond 12 months after the first occurrence and are therefore treated as having continued for the whole period - in this case, a period of 13 months.
Case study 2: helps convey how several minor impairments when taken together have a substantial adverse effect on normal day to day activities.
A woman with depression experiences a range of symptoms that include a loss of energy and motivation that makes even the simplest of tasks or decisions seem quite difficult. She finds it difficult to get up in the morning, get washed and dressed, and prepare breakfast. She is forgetful and cannot plan ahead. As a result she often runs out of food before thinking about going shopping and household tasks are frequently left undone, or take much longer to complete than normal.
Together, the cumulative effects of the impairment have a substantial adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day to day activities.
Case study 3: helps convey how some impairments have an adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day communication activities.
A man has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and this causes him to have difficulty communicating with people. He finds it hard to understand non-verbal communications such as facial expressions and non-factual communication such as jokes. He takes everything that is said very literally and so has difficulty in making or keeping friends or developing close relationships. He is given verbal instructions during office banter with his manager, but his ability to understand the instruction is impaired because he is unable to isolate the instruction from the social conversation.
It would be reasonable to regard his impairment as having a substantial adverse effect on normal day to day activities.
Case study 4: helps convey how someone with a past disability is still protected by the Act.
A woman experienced a mental illness four years ago that had a substantial and long term adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day to day activities and so it met with the Act’s definition of disability. She has not experienced a recurrence of that condition.
This woman would still be entitled to the protection afforded by the Act, as a person with a past disability.
Case study 5: helps convey how someone who continues to experience the effects of a past disability is still protected by the Act.
Nine years ago a woman was the victim of a vicious robbery that left her with both physical and psychological injuries. She gradually resumed work whilst recovering from her physical injuries but her psychological state remained poor as a result of the trauma of her attack. Years after the robbery she still suffers periods of depression.
This woman continues to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and is entitled to protection by the Act.
For further information relating to the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 follow this link Equality Act guidance - Publications - GOV.UK.