Creating a fairer Britain
The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.
Section 1 of the DDA defines disability and identifies those with rights under the Act as having ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. The term 'Disabled people' can include the following, though this list is not exhaustive:
It is important to understand that many conditions that may not be traditionally considered as 'disabilities' are covered by the DDA. The guidance on determining the definition of disability can be downloaded here (Pdf).
When doctors are service providers or when they work for another service provider they and their staff must avoid discriminating against disabled people because of their disability – for example, by assuming a person is being unnecessarily aggressive or difficult when in fact their behaviour is a result of their disability. Although it is not acceptable for healthcare staff to accept aggressive behaviour, if they are more disability aware, they may be in a better position to make adjustments to help manage the situation.
The DDA also requires that service providers must not provide a lower quality of service to disabled people – for example, only relying upon the tannoy system to call the next patient would disadvantage hearing-impaired people. This could also seriously disadvantage deafblind people who may need reception staff to specifically indicate to them when it is their turn.
Under the DDA service providers must also provide reasonable adjustments for disabled people to enable them to access their services. There are four main types of adjustments:
To ensure health professionals are meeting their duties under the DDA it is recommended that service providers use guidance available from the Department of Health (DH) web site and the Codes of Practice available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The above duties seek to prevent discrimination but newer duties seek to eliminate its source.
Doctors working for or in the public sector have additional responsibilities since December 2006. The Disability Equality Duty (DED) means that any public body needs to actively look at ways of ensuring that disabled people are treated equally.
This law requires organisations across the public sector (including hospitals, local and central government, schools and colleges) to be proactive in ensuring that disabled people are treated fairly.
However, this duty is not necessarily about changes to buildings or adjustments for individuals. It’s all about including equality for disabled people, into the culture of public authorities in practical and demonstrated ways. This means including disabled people and disability equality into everything from the outset, rather than focusing on individualised responses to specific disabled people.