Types of disability discrimination

Direct discrimination

This occurs when:

  • a disabled person is treated less favourably than someone else, who has similar circumstances and abilities
  • the treatment is for a reason relating to the persons's disability.


A blind woman is not short-listed for a job involving computers because the employer wrongly assumes that blind people can not use them. The employer makes no attempt to look at the individuals circumstances. The employer has treated the woman less favourably than the other people by not short-listing her for the job. The treatment was on the ground of the woman's disability (because such assumptions would not have been made about a non-disabled person) and is likely to be direct discrimination.

If another person, without the particular disability, would have been treated the same way as the person with the disability, then direct discrimination is unlikely to have occured.

There is no justification for direct discrimination.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments

An employer, education provider or service provider has a duty to make reasonable adjustments where a provision, criterion or practice, or any physical feature of premises occupied by them, places a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared with people who are not disabled. They must take reasonable steps to prevent that disadvantage. It isn’t possible for them to justify not making adjustments that are reasonable.

Disability-related discrimination

This form of discrimination refers to treatment of a disabled person that:

  • is unlawful because it is for a reason related to a disability;
  • is less favourable than the way in which others, to whom that reason doesn’t apply, are treated
  • the employer cannot show that the treatment is justified.


Victimisation is outlawed by the DDA. It says that a person should not be treated less favourably because they have done, or are likely to do, one of the following:

  • brought legal action under the DDA (eg at an employment tribunal, or other body), or given evidence in such an action
  • done anything else relating to such an action, such as supporting the person taking the action
  • alleged that someone has breached the DDA.

Even if someone drops a case, no one can be given lesser treatment as a result.

If a person has made a false allegation knowing it to be untrue, then it is not illegal to treat them less favourably.

It is only in relation to victimisation that someone who is not disabled is covered by the DDA – for example if they give evidence at a hearing, or if they support someone in taking an action.

Last Updated: 30 Sep 2014