Your rights if you have a disability

Find out about disability discrimination in everyday life and the rights of people with disabilities, including in employment, health and education.

Access to goods, premises and services

The two disability discrimination laws, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and the Special Educational Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005 (SENDO), give people with disabilities important rights not to be discriminated against:

  • in accessing everyday goods and services like shops, cafés, banks, cinemas and places of worship
  • in buying or renting land or property
  • in accessing certain private facilities, such as those owned by private clubs (with 25 or more members)
  • in accessing important social goods and services, such as healthcare, housing, education and transport
  • in how public bodies carry out some of their other functions, such as policing and the issuing of licences
  • Access to everyday services
  • Protection against disability discrimination

Employment

It is unlawful under the DDA for employers to subject job-seekers with disabilities and employees to disability discrimination. This includes failing to make reasonable adjustments and subjecting people with disabilities to disability-related harassment.

Health

It is unlawful under the DDA for healthcare providers and social services, such as doctors' surgeries, dental surgeries and hospitals to subject people with disabilities who wish to use those services to disability discrimination. This includes failing to make reasonable adjustments and provide reasonable ancillary aids and services, such as, where needed and where it is reasonable to provide it, sign language interpreters, hearing loops and publications in different formats.

Education

It is unlawful under SENDO for education providers, such as schools, colleges and universities to subject pupils with disabilities, prospective pupils, students with disabilities and prospective students to disability discrimination. This includes failing to make reasonable adjustments and, also for further and higher education colleges and universities, disability-related harassment. SENDO also makes it unlawful for certain qualification awarding bodies to discriminate too.

Buying and renting property 

Under the DDA it is unlawful for people, such as owners, landlords and estate agents, who are selling or letting or managing premises, including housing providers like the Housing Executive and housing associations, to subject people with disabilities who wish to buy or rent those properties to disability discrimination in certain circumstances and this may include, in the case of leasehold property, failing to meet a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Mental health 

Many people with a mental health condition may not think of themselves as having a 'disability' - but they may be and, if so, will have the right under the DDA and SENDO not to be subjected to disability discrimination.

In addition, another law the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986, which is not a discrimination law, covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health condition.

Motoring and transport

It is unlawful under the DDA for transport providers, such as bus, coach and train operators and taxis to subject people with disabilities who wish to use those services to disability discrimination. This includes failing to make reasonable adjustments and provide reasonable ancillary aids and services, such as, where needed and where it is reasonable to provide it, sign language interpreters, hearing loops and publications, such as timetables, in different formats.

Transport providers, such a taxi drivers, are also obliged to carry wheelchairs and guide dogs.

Help and advice 

The Equality Commission can provide free and confidential advice and help to people who believe they have been discriminated against for a reason related to their disability.

It also provides free general advice to employers and service providers on recommended good practice under the DDA.

UNCRPD – disability rights

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission have been designated as the 'independent mechanism' for the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

They are monitoring the implementation of UNCRPD, holding decision makers to account and will report to a UN committee on how the Convention is being implemented.

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