In this blog I have included information that comes from the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, but before I tell you what ‘they’ say about defining disabled, I’d like to tell you how I feel about it.
What do you think of when you hear the words disabled or disability?
Disabled is such a generic term. The amount of people, illnesses, physical or mental impairments that are grouped together under the label are almost limitless. Personally, I think it’s time to redefine ourselves.
Please tell me how you feel about this….. I’m not sure grouping us all together in the same basket is helping anyone. Does an amputee want to be given the same label as someone with a mental impairment? Does someone with cerebral Palsy want to be given the same label as someone with a learning disability? Does someone with Downs’ Syndrome want to be given the same label as someone who is so morbidly obese they cannot function?
I use a wheelchair on a permanent basis, as many of you who have read other blog posts will know, so my body doesn’t function as society would say is ‘normal’ and I am therefore labelled as disabled. Wheelchair users are very clearly recognisable as ‘disabled’. I have faced the situation many times where a member of the public, a complete stranger has presumed that I am mentally impaired because I sit in a chair (hopefully none of them had heard me speak prior to making the assumption 🙂 ). Does the way we define disabled help to give the public the impression that if you are wheelchair bound, you are mentally impaired? In the same vain, are we helping or hindering the cause of Downs’ Syndrome sufferers as many of the general public continue to believe they are not or cannot be normal functioning citizens and valuable members of society?
This conversation and examples could go on and on, but the purpose of this blog is to hear what you have to say about it, and equip you, whatever your disability, with a little knowledge of what defines us in law. There may be no way of clearly defining the sub-divisions of what we call disability and until then I will continue to behave in a way that shows the world that ‘disabled’ is not what defines me. Let us all be aware that half of what defines disability, is our attitude towards it. Loo k out for another blog entry coming soon with more experiences from real people called ‘redefining disabled’.
The law according to the Disability Discrimination Act defines a disabled person as someone with
‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’
In addition to the DDA definition of disabled persons, the rules apply to those with limited mobility also. Under EC regulations this is defined as follows:
“Disabled person” or “person with reduced mobility” means any person whose mobility when using transport is reduced due to any physical disability (sensory or locomotor, permanent or temporary), intellectual disability or impairment, or any other cause of disability, or age, and whose situation needs appropriate attention and the adaptation to his or her particular needs of the service made available to all passengers.
Article 2(a) of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006
You can find the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 here http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/disability_discrimination_act_2005.pdf
A court would have to rule under the legislation on your behalf to confirm that you are disabled if you have any doubt as to whether you fall into the category. Included within the definition are diabetes, heart conditions, visual impairment, cancer, MS, HIV, hearing impairments, learning difficulties, mental health issues, wheelchair users, other significant mobility issues and severe facial disfigurements. Anyone in these categories has rights under the DDA in an effort to eliminate discrimination against them due to their circumstances.
To clarify the meanings of some disability terms and whether or not you are classed as disabled we have included some definitions of those that are widely used.
A physical impairment – A problem that affects the body. This could stem from health problems, sight loss, hearing loss or mobility issues.
A Mental Impairment – A problem affecting the brain and therefore mental functioning capabilities. This could be
anything from an illness such as manic depression to a learning disability.
Substantial – More than small, minor or trivial. The dictionary definition is:
“of considerable importance, size, or worth.”
Your problem is substantial if:
- It takes you much longer to perform ordinary day-to-day tasks than other people
- You perform tasks differently than others to achieve the same outcome
- The effect of a number of tasks on your wellbeing is amplified compared to the outcome on others
- Small changes in behaviour do not affect your condition positively
The Affects of Treatment
Generally speaking medication or equipment should not define a disability. This part of the Law should be considered by taking into account how your disability would affect your day-to-day living were it not treated or aided by equipment.
Progressive illnesses like Arthritis are only considered a disability once they begin to have a substantial adverse affect on your day-to-day living.
Severe disfigurements are automatically classed as a disability unless they are in certain positions which are then subject to scrutiny for application.
A long-term effect of your impairment has to last more than 12 months or be likely to last more than 12 months from diagnosis or onset of your symptoms. If the effects will last for the rest of your life, they are long-term.
Normal day-to-day activities
Normal day-to-day activities involve issues of
- Something using your hands
- Physical coordination
- Bladder control
- Bowel control
- Lifting objects
- Carrying objects
- Moving objects
- Learning and understanding
- Recognising danger
Each one of these issues may be subject to scrutiny in court.
Mobility involves problems with
- Changing position
- Walking unaided
- Walking normally
- Using public transport
- Going outdoors alone
- Navigating steep hills or slopes
- Travelling as a passenger in a car
If you can walk over a mile or travel for a period of 2 hours or longer, it is unlikely that you have a disability.
A disability under this heading would be having a substantial adverse affect on you as a result of loss of function in one or both hands or the inability to manipulate small objects.
Substantial adverse affects would include
- No coordination between hands
- Inability to use a knife and fork together
- Significantly reduced typing speed compared to that of others (not secretarial standards)
Being disabled in this area would involve a substantial lack of control over your body. This includes
- Hand to eye coordination
- Inability to walk and use your hands at the same time
- Difficulty in pouring liquids or solids between containers
- Inability to feed yourself without assistance or unusually high levels of concentration
The ability to control the release of urine or faeces.
You must have frequent or unpredictable loss of continence to be considered disabled in this area.
Ability to lift, carry or move everyday objects
The period of time in which you would lift, carry or move objects is a major factor. Things that qualify are:
- Shopping bags
- Light pieces of furniture
- Overnight bags
- Loaded trays
If you cannot carry these objects still or with one hand then you would be likely to qualify as disabled.
The ability to speak and communicate face to face, on the telephone or in a written form.
Qualifying as disabled in this area means:
- You cannot talk in a normal rhythm or pace like others
- You cannot speak clearly
- You cannot understand someone talking to you in your own language
- You cannot clearly instruct others
- You cannot ask questions for your own clarity
- You talk very slowly
The ability to hear and communicate face to face, on the telephone or in a written form.
Qualifying as disabled in this area means:
- Your hearing without an aid is substantially affected, especially where background noise is present and others would be able to hear relatively well.
- You cannot understand someone talking normally
- You cannot understand clear speech over a telephone
The ability to see and communicate face to face, on the telephone or in written form.
Disabilities in this area are considered whilst wearing any visual aide, so to qualify as disabled in this area you must
- Not be able to pass the eyesight part of a driving test whilst wearing your glasses or visual aid
- Not be able to recognise someone across an average sized room
- Not be able to distinguish colours
- Have difficulty reading a newspaper
- Have difficulty walking without bumping into things
Memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand
This covers your ability to
- Organise your thoughts
- Absorb new knowledge
- Plan a course of action
- Carry out a course of action
- Understand written instructions
- Understand spoken instructions
- Learn at a reasonable speed
- Use numbers
To be thought of as disabled in this area you must
- Experience random periods of confusion
- Experience random loss of consciousness
- Constantly be unable to remember names of friends and relatives
- Have difficulty with routine changes even after a reasonable period of time
- Be unable to write a cheque without assistance
- Be unable to follow short lists of instructions
- Have problems with normal social interaction
Perception of the risk of physical danger
This involves the underestimation or overestimation of danger in different situations which could potentially harm you.
- Do you perform basic functions regularly and safely, (eating, drinking, sleeping, personal hygiene, staying warm).
- Are you reckless regularly
- Do you put others at risk
- Do you avoid normal activities unreasonably
- Do you go to great lengths to avoid normal activities
- Can you work a piece of equipment safely
- Can you cross the road safely all of the time
- Do you eat regularly
- Can you recognise hot and cold objects (mentally and physically)
Thanks go to http://www.socialistrevolution.org for use of their picture and a great blog on the rights of disabled people in the workplace. Other images courtesy of Google.