The Equality Act

The Equality Act protects identified groups from discrimination, harassment or victimisation. Disability is one of the protected characteristics identified in the Act.

Full information about the Equality Act can be found on Government webpages, or the Equality and Human Rights Commission website

Definition of disability

Under the Equality Act (2010), a person is considered disabled if they have a substantial and long-term mental or physical impairment that has an adverse effect on their ability to undertake normal day-to-day activities. Study, including examinations, falls under the category of a day-to-day activity.

What does ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ mean?

  • ‘substantial’ is more than minor or trivial;
  • ‘long-term’ means 12 months or more - the long-term criteria applies if the condition has lasted, or is expected to last for 12 months or more. Cancer, HIV and Multiple Sclerosis are included from the time of diagnosis and do not have to have lasted for 12 months.

There are additional regulations applying to progressive and fluctuating conditions. Full guidance on making decisions about the definition of disability can be found on the Government website(PDF).

The Equality Act means that the University must:

  • take account of disabled people’s impairments;
  • must not discriminate against disabled people by treating them less favourably than other people;
  • make reasonable adjustments, both anticipatory and individual; and
  • promote equality of opportunity between disabled people and others.

It is permissible to treat disabled people ‘more favourably’ than others, where to do so would not breach a competence standard.

Guidance on application of the Equality Act for Further and Higher Education providers is available on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.