by Kate Russell

Progressive conditions

Special conditions apply to progressive conditions, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), various types of dementia, rheumatoid arthritis and motor neurone disease.

A person who has a progressive condition will be treated as having an impairment which has a substantial adverse effect from the moment any impairment resulting from that condition first has some adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, provided that in the future the adverse effect is more likely than not to become substantial. Medical prognosis of the likely impact of the condition will be the normal route to establishing protection under this provision. The effect need not be continuous and need not be substantial. The person will still need to show that the impairment meets the requirements of ‘long-term’.

A person with a progressive condition which has no effect on day-to-day activities because it is successfully treated (for example, by surgery) may still have a disability where the effects of that treatment give rise to a further impairment which does have an effect on normal day-to-day activities. For example, treatment for the condition may result in an impairment which has some effect on normal day-to-day activities and the effects of that impairment are likely to become substantial in the future.

Following the amendments made by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, a person with cancer, multiple sclerosis or HIV infection is now deemed to be disabled from the point at which diagnosis was made, irrespective of whether the condition has yet had any impact upon the person.

The definition of impairment is sufficiently flexible to include a condition which has come about as a result of medical treatment.


K had treatment for prostate cancer and developed minor incontinence as a result. The court held that the impairment was sufficiently closely linked to the condition treated to result from it and was therefore a disability.