The Disability Discrimination Act

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) introduced new laws aimed at ending the discrimination that many disabled people face. The Act gave disabled people new rights of access to goods and services, education, employment, transport and accommodation. This, and other discriminatory legislation were consolidated under the Equlity Act 2010.

Since December 1996 it has been unlawful for organisations which provide a service to the public ('service providers') to treat disabled people less favourably than other people for a reason related to their disability.

Since 1st October 1999 it's been a requirement for service providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way they provide their services.

From 1st October 2004 [under the terms of the Disability Discrimination (Providers of Services) (Adjustment of Premises) Regulations 2001] service providers must consider making reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 2005 established a Disability Equality Duty (DED) which places a statutory duty on public bodies* to have due regard to the need to:

  • promote equality of opportunity between disabled persons and other persons
  • eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the DDA
  • eliminate harassment of disabled persons that is related to their disabilities
  • promote positive attitudes towards disabled persons
  • encourage participation by disabled persons in public life
  • take steps to take account of disabled persons’ disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled persons more favourably than other persons

*in the context of the DED, any organisation which carries out functions of a public nature is included in the definition of a public authority (thereby including General Practices); such organisations are required to conform to the 'general duty'. Many public bodies (including Primary Care Organisations) are required to conform to more onerous 'specific duties', which include the development of Disability Equality Schemes.

Practices have a 'general duty' (see below) to provide equality of services for the disabled.

The DED applies in England, Scotland and Wales. There is different legislation in Northern Ireland.

What are the implications for practices of conforming to the 'general duty'?

To conform to the 'general duty' practices must (in both service provision and in their employment procedures) have regard to the elimination of unlawful discrimination and harassment on the grounds of a person's disability. This may be achieved through the existence and enforcement of the following:

  • an Equal Opportunities/Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Policy
  • a Bullying and Harassment Policy
  • an Equal Opportunities/Anti-Discrimination (Service Provision) Policy
  • Disability Access Protocol & Check-list

Subscribers to the members section of the FPM website can download drafts of these policies and protocols in the HR index of the policies and procedures library. Subscribers to the members section of the FPM website will find more details about discrimination in employment in the HR / Employment Law guidance area of the website. If you are not a member, have a look at the information about the benefits of membership and how to subscribe.

Other discrimination-related legislation

Further information about equality/discrimination legislation:

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