Paul Stemman

Deaf Info


The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

What is a disability?

Many d/Deaf people do not see themselves as disabled. However, deafness is considered a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act. Similarly, a mental illness is also considered a disability. The Act defines a disabled person as someone who has "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". This definition includes many other people who would not consider themselves to be ‘disabled’, but who have rights under the Act. For instance, people with arthritis or a heart condition.


Scope of the DDA


The Disability Discrimination Act outlaws discrimination in:

  • Employment;
  • Access to goods, facilities and services; and
  • Education

  • The DDA and Employment

    Employers must make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure that a disabled person is not at a substantial disadvantage compared to other employees. This could be an adjustment to the building, or to a work practice. Employers also have to make reasonable adjustments to their recruitment procedures, e.g. provide an interpreter for a job interview.


    So what is considered a “reasonable adjustment”? This is not easy to answer. Each case is judged on its merits. Employers have three criteria they must consider:

  • effectiveness in preventing disadvantage;
  • costs of the adjustment and the extent of any disruption; and
  • the extent of the employer’s financial or other resources.

    Fortunately, many adjustments can be quite simple and cheap. Installing a textphone/minicom, or providing staff with Communication Tactics training, would not be a burden for most businesses. There is funding available to help with the cost of some adjustments, through “Access to Work”. A Disability Employment Advisor from the local JobCentre should be able to provide information and advice.

    The DDA and access to goods and services

    Businesses now have to change the way they deliver goods and services. You cannot be treated less favourably because of your disability, e.g. having to wait longer than other customers, or not being given the same level of service.


    Businesses have to make “reasonable adjustments” to the way they provide their goods and services, and make sure their premises are accessible. You may have noticed a lot of banks and shops putting in ramps and automatic doors.


    Unfortunately, many firms think that access for disabled people is all about wheelchairs, and forget the barriers Deaf people face. Businesses are also meant to make their services accessible before it is demanded by a customer or user, not to wait until someone asks for access.


    DDA information coninues here.