by Kate Russell

Tips to avoid disability discrimination

Be flexible

There may be several ways to avoid discrimination in any one situation. Examples are illustrative only, to indicate what should or should not be done in those and other broadly similar types of situations. They cannot cover every possibility, so it is important to consider carefully how the guidance applies in any specific circumstances. Many ways of avoiding discrimination will cost little or nothing.

Do not make assumptions

It will probably be helpful to talk to each disabled person about what the real effects of the disability might be or what might help. There is less chance of a dispute where the person is involved from the start. Such discussions should not, of course, be conducted in a way which would itself give the disabled person any reason to believe that he was being discriminated against.

Consider whether expert advice is needed

It is possible to avoid discrimination using personal, or in-house, knowledge and expertise, particularly if the views of the disabled person are sought. The act does not oblige anyone to get expert advice, but it could help in some circumstances to seek independent advice on the extent of a disabled person’s capabilities. This might be particularly appropriate where a person is newly disabled or the effects of someone’s disability become more marked. It may also help to get advice on what might be done to change premises or working arrangements, especially if discussions with the disabled person do not lead to a satisfactory solution. See Want to know more? for information about getting advice or help.

Plan ahead

Although the act does not require an employer to make changes in anticipation of ever having a disabled applicant or employee, nevertheless when planning for change it could be cost-effective to consider the needs of a range of possible future disabled employees and applicants. There may be helpful improvements that could be built into plans. For example, a new telecommunications system might be made accessible to deaf people, even if there are currently no deaf employees.

Codes of practice

The government and the Commission for Equality and Human Rights have produced a number of codes of practice, explaining legal rights and requirements. These codes are practical guidance – particularly for disabled people, employers, service providers and education institutions – rather than definitive statements of the law. However, courts and tribunals must take them into account.