Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Equality Act 2010

Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001


Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Disability Discrimination Act (1995), (DDA) made it unlawful to discriminate against workers in employment, education, transport and the provision of goods and services.

The Act defines a disabled person as a person with 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'.

For the purposes of the Act the main elements of the definitions are as follows:

  • Substantial means neither minor nor trivial
  • Long term means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months
  • Normal day-to-day activities include everyday activities like eating, washing, walking and shopping (a normal activity must affect one of the capacities which are listed in the Act: mobility, manual dexterity, speech, hearing, seeing and memory).

Who does the Disability Discrimination Act apply to and when?

The Act applies to employees, self employed, temporary and agency workers, apprentices, contractors, prison officers, fire fighters and police officers. A worker is protected under the act from the time they apply for a job. The Act applies to all discrimination in the workplace such as selection for a job, terms and conditions of employment, promotion or transfer, training, employment benefits and dismissal or any other detrimental treatment. Unlike sex and race discrimination legislation, which provide rights to equal treatment for everyone, the DDA only offers protection to disabled people (and a limited number of others, namely carers of disabled people). It also allows employers to discriminate positively in favour of the disabled.

Please note: The Equality Act 2010, has been put into place to simplify this Act and other previous legislation surrounding Equality and to put them all together in one piece of legislation.

Where can I find out more?

The Disability Discrimination Act: Legislation UK


The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act was introduced on 1st October 2010 to simplify previous laws and to bring them all together in one piece of legislation. The Equality Act covers the same groups that were protected by existing equality legislation - age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity - it extends some protections to some of the groups not previously covered, and also strengthens particular aspects of equality law.

The Equality Act 2010 - What's new and what's changed: at a glance:

  • Stayed the same - for example, direct discrimination is still unlawful under the new Equality Act 2010 and therefore direct discrimination occurs when "someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic, " for example disability, race, age.
  •  Changed - for example, employees will now be able to complain of harassment even if it is not directed at them, if they can demonstrate that it creates an offensive environment for them. An example of this may be in a situation whereby a joke is made about hearing impaired people and this is considered offensive even if the joke is being directed at or shared a person who is not hearing impaired.
  •  Been introduced for the first time - for example, the concept of discrimination arising from disability, which occurs if a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability

Who has legal obligations under the higher education provisions?

  • Universities and higher education institutions

The responsible body (the governing body) of a higher education institution is liable for any breaches of the Equality Act, and therefore is liable for the actions of its employees and agents of the institution unless it can demonstrate that it took 'all reasonable steps' to prevent the discrimination, harassment or victimisation from taking place.

Who is protected by the Equality Act?

The Act protects students and staff in higher education institutions from discrimination and harassment based on the following 'protected characteristics':

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation

What happens if a student thinks a higher education institution has acted unlawfully?

If a student believes they have been discriminated against, harassed or victimised by a higher education institution, they can make a claim under the Equality Act

Where can I find out more?



Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001

What is SENDA 2001?

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) introduces the right for disabled students not to be discriminated against in education, training and services which are provided wholly or mainly for students, and for those enrolled on courses provided by 'responsible bodies', including six form colleges, and further and higher education institutions.

What does SENDA mean in practice?

This Act is designed to ensure disabled students are not placed at a 'substantial disadvantage' in comparison to their non-disabled peers. The law makes it unlawful to treat a disabled person 'less favourably' for a reason relating to their disability.

Example: A dyslexic student applies to do a degree in law. The university tells her that they do not take dyslexic students on law degrees. The treatment she receives is less favourable compared to other students and the reason for the treatment relates to her disability, therefore the university is likely to be acting in an unlawful manner.

SENDA means:

  • Disabled people have an equal right to education and are not discriminated against directly or indirectly.
  • Disabled students cannot normally be excluded from courses by reason of their disability
  • Practitioners have to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled students get an equal opportunity.

SENDA does not mean

  • Lecturers should only focus on disabled students and forget about all other students

Please note:The Equality Act 2010, has been put into place to simplify this Act and other previous legislation surrounding Equality and to put them all together in one piece of legislation.

Where can I find out more?

Legislation UK

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