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Disability in the United Kingdom

Disability in the United Kingdom (UK). A wheelchair user is getting inside a vehicle using a hydraulic lift.
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | June 26, 2021 (Last update: June 26, 2021)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

The United Kingdom, commonly known as Britain, has one of the longest histories of disability rights movements. Disability Rights Organization like The Union of the Physically Impaired against Segregation was established in the United Kingdom as early as the 1970s. Let us have a look at the current status of disability rights in the UK and let’s evaluate the condition of persons with disabilities in the UK.

Disability Definition in the United Kingdom

The definition of Disability for the United Kingdom is given in the Equality Act 2010. Section 6 (1) of the Act states –

“A person has a disability for the purposes of the Act if he or she has a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

Substantial means more than minor or trivial. And, long-term in this definition means a period of one year or more.

In addition to providing a definition, the Act also gives a list of impairments that cannot be considered a disability under the law. The impairments that are not considered disability includes –

  • Addiction
  • Hay Fever
  • Pyromania (tendency to put things on fire)
  • Kleptomania (tendency to steal)
  • A tendency towards physical or sexual abuse
  • Exhibitionism
  • Voyeurism

Disability Statistics of the United Kingdom

According to the Family Resources Survey 2019, 14.1 million people in the United Kingdom have one or the other form of disability. This includes

  • 8% of the child population,
  • 19% of the working-age population and
  • 45% of the old age or pension age population

More than 4.4 million disabled people are gainfully employed. Nevertheless, it is estimated that persons with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed as the non-disabled working population of the UK. Around 26% of the working-age disabled population are reported to be living in poverty as opposed to 21% in the case of working-age non-disabled.

It is estimated that on average, persons with disabilities living in the UK need to spend an extra £583 monthly for the same living standard as non-disabled people.

Disability in the United Kingdom (UK). A wheelchair user is getting inside a vehicle using a hydraulic lift.

Laws and Legislation Regarding Disability in the United Kingdom

The Equality Act 2010 – The act is a combination of various other previous laws and acts including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This act collected older pieces of legislation addressing minority groups, including persons with disabilities. The Equality Act aimed to create a simple but robust act to prevent any form of discrimination and bring equality in society. As stated above, this is the act that provides the definition of disability.

Employment Rights for Persons with Disabilities in the United Kingdom

The employment rights of persons with disabilities are protected under the Equality Act 2010. The Act prohibits employers to discriminate against anyone based on their disabilities. They can ask candidates about their disability only to ascertain whether the person can carry out a task that is an essential part of the work. Employers are further obliged to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. The employer needs to make sure that employees with disabilities are not put in a disadvantageous position compared to the non-disabled workforce. No discrimination can be made against employees with disabilities at any stage including – application, interview, proficiency test, job offer, terms of employment, remuneration, training, promotion, transfer, redundancy, retirement and grievance redressal.

Social Status of Persons with Disabilities in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is reported to have a relatively favorable cultural attitude towards mental health conditions. It is seen as a promising place for persons with disabilities seeking equal opportunities. However, a survey done in 2017 revealed that 32% of persons with disabilities and 22% of non-disabled people feel that there are lots of prejudices against persons with disabilities. 1 in 3 disabled people, when asked, said they felt lots of prejudices against themselves. And, 1 in 3 non-disabled people reportedly said that persons with disabilities are less productive as compared to non-disabled people.

Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography

"Disability in the United Kingdom." Web. June 25, 2024. <>, "Disability in the United Kingdom." Accessed June 25, 2024.

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