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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Definition of 'disability' under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The definition

For the purposes of the Act:

  • substantial means neither minor nor trivial
  • long term means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months (there are special rules covering recurring or fluctuating conditions)
  • normal day-to-day activities include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping
  • a normal day-to-day activity must affect one of the 'capacities' listed in the Act which include mobility, manual dexterity, speech, hearing, seeing and memory

Some conditions, such as a tendency to set fires and hay fever, are specifically excluded.

People who have had a disability in the past that meets this definition are also covered by the scope of the Act. There are additional provisions relating to people with progressive conditions.

The DDA 2005 amended the definition of disability. It ensured that people with HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis are deemed to be covered by the DDA effectively from the point of diagnosis, rather than from the point when the condition has some adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Guidance and codes of practice

The government has published statutory guidance, primarily to assist adjudicating bodies like courts and tribunals in deciding whether a person is a disabled person for the purposes of the DDA. The current 'Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability' has been in force since 1 May 2006.

The Disability Rights Commission closed on 28 September 2007, but the website is still available. You can read the the current guidance, the 1996 guidance and the Disability Rights Commission's codes of practice on the DDA on the Disability Rights Commission website.

Help from the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which opened on 1 October 2007, has taken over the activities of the Disability Rights Commission. It runs a dedicated disability helpline:

Equality and Human Rights Commission Disability Helpline


Stratford upon Avon

CV37 9BR

Telephone: 08457 622 633

Textphone: 08457 622 644

The helpline is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am-5pm; Wednesday 8am-8pm.

Fax: 08457 778 878


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