Disability-related harassment Terms of Reference

Following a consultation on the draft terms of reference, the following terms of reference and definitions have been agreed.

Terms of Reference

  1. To inquire into steps taken by public authorities, singly and jointly with others, to prevent and eliminate disability-related harassment.
  2. To inquire into steps taken by public authorities, singly and jointly with others, to address the causes of disability-related harassment including prejudice and negative attitudes.
  3. To inquire into steps taken by public transport operators, singly or jointly with others (including public authorities), to prevent and eliminate disability-related harassment on or around public transport.
  4. To inquire into how public authorities and public transport operators, singly and jointly with others, have ensured the involvement of disabled people in the prevention and elimination of disability-related harassment and addressing its causes, including steps taken to enable disabled people to effectively report disability-related harassment.
  5. To inquire into the effectiveness of the steps referred to in paragraphs 1-4 above in preventing and eliminating disability-related harassment and its causes.
  6. To inquire into how, in deciding on and carrying out the steps in 1-4 above, public authorities and public transport operators have taken into account the diverse experiences and needs of disabled people related to their impairment type, age, gender, gender identity, race or ethnicity, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
  7. To inquire into the causes of disability-related harassment and identify effective approaches to preventing and eliminating disability-related harassment and disseminating good practice.
  8. To make such recommendations as are appropriate.
  9. In carrying out the inquiry the Commission will, where relevant, have regard to the extent to which the public authorities concerned:

    have complied with their duties in relation to the Disability Equality Duty set out in s.49A and s.49D of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, including in particular those elements of the duty relating to the elimination of disability-related harassment and its causes, the promotion of positive attitudes towards disabled people and the duty to encourage the participation of disabled people in public life;

    have complied with any obligations arising under the Human Rights Act 1998;

    are aware of their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in particular Article 16 of that Convention, and the degree to which they have taken action to fulfil them.

  10. The Inquiry will consider steps carried out directly by public authorities; steps carried out through private and voluntary sector organisations; and issues relating to procurement relevant to the Inquiry's terms of reference. For the avoidance of doubt, the Inquiry will consider those steps taken by registered social landlords and Arm's Length Management Organisations (ALMOs).

Scope of the Inquiry - Scope of disability-related harassment to be considered by the Inquiry

The Inquiry will investigate disability-related harassment carried out by individuals or groups of people, including strangers, neighbours, acquaintances, friends, family, relatives and partners. Such harassment may occur in public places such as streets, parks, schools and leisure facilities and/or in private such as the home. The Inquiry will not investigate harassment in the workplace, which is covered by a separate legislative framework.

Geographical scope

The Inquiry will cover England, Scotland and Wales.


Disabled person

For the purposes of the Inquiry, the Commission will use the definition of a disabled person in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, as amended by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005:

  • someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, including people with recurring or fluctuating conditions such as depression, HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

The Inquiry will investigate harassment against people who satisfy this definition but may not define themselves as disabled, including Deaf people and people with mental health conditions.

Disability-related harassment

Although public authorities have a responsibility under the Disability Equality Duty to have due regard to eliminating disability-related harassment, the term is not defined for the purposes of the Duty. The Commission will use the following definition of disability-related harassment within this Inquiry.

  • Disability-related harassment is unwanted, exploitative or abusive conduct against disabled people which has the purpose or effect of either:
    • violating the dignity, safety, security or autonomy of the person experiencing it, or
    • creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment.
  • Disability-related harassment is also such conduct against the family, friends and associates of disabled people because of their connection with a disabled person.
  • Disability-related harassment is also such conduct against a person perceived to be a disabled person.
  • Disability-related harassment encompasses bullying and hate crime against disabled people.
  • Disability-related harassment may involve repeated or one-off incidents.

Public authority

A public authority for the purposes of s.49B of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Public Transport

Trains (overground and underground), trams, buses and other public service vehicles as defined by s.40(5) Disability Discrimination Act.

Public Transport Operators

Any company or organisation (including those in the private sector) involved in the provision of public transport including, for the avoidance of doubt, those involved in owning, operating and maintaining transport infrastructure such as rail and bus stations.

Examples of disability-related harassment, including bullying and hate crime

The following are some examples of disability-related harassment, bullying and hate crime. This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other examples.

  • derogatory, demeaning or humiliating remarks
  • name-calling or ridicule
  • offensive or patronising language
  • insults
  • threats and intimidation
  • invasion of personal space
  • unnecessary touching
  • unwanted comments about appearance or disability
  • intrusive questioning about disability
  • offensive jokes, banter
  • abusive verbal or written comments related to disability
  • offensive emails
  • cyberbullying, using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones to threaten, bully or intimidate
  • offensive graffiti
  • financial exploitation of a disabled person including taking their benefits money
  • deliberately putting aids and adaptations out of reach
  • damage to a disabled person's property, including aids and adaptations
  • sexual abuse, rape and sexual assault
  • physical assault, ranging from lower level assaults up to murder

Last updated: 29 Jun 2016