Disability in the UK


1. Introduction.

2. General information about disability and the legislation.

3. Working with disabled students.

4. Your rights if you are a disabled member of staff.

5. Working with disabled colleagues.

6. Some information about the various forms of impairment.

7. Support and assistive technology for staff and students.

8. Further information.



1. Introduction

In the UK, disabled people have protection under the law when they are employees and when they are students. They are entitled to reasonable adjustments from others to allow for their needs.

When we say disabled people, we mean people who have a physical OR mental condition which is significant, adverse and long lasting. This includes:

  • People with specific learning differences such as dyslexia or dyscalculia.
  • Those with mental health issues (e.g. anxiety, depression).
  • Those with ‘hidden’ chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, asthma, epilepsy) which may not be evident to a casual observer.
  • People with sensory, mobility and dexterity impairments.

You should expect 5 to 10% of all university students to experience some form of impairment or medical condition (disability).

This section is divided into different areas related to disability in the UK. Each section features comprehensive fact sheets (pdf downloads) that can be viewed online or printed and kept for easy reference.


2. General information about disability and the legislation

This section looks at the general UK legislation on disability. This includes details of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and what services are covered by the DDA. It also looks at the DDA in the public sector, how it operates and how it is enforced.

This section concludes with a list of useful links and contacts and a glossary of terminology.

UK legislation on disability.

useful links and contacts.

The QAA code of practice.

Glossary of terminology around disability and impairment.


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3. Working with disabled students

This section looks at questions such as, ‘What should I do if a student tells me they are disabled?’ and provides more information about confidentiality and UK law.

This section also looks at disabled students allowances and how disabled students can apply for financial support.

The section concludes with information on disability support workers on campus and the support offered to disabled students in their day-to-day lives.

Applying the disability legislation when working with students

The disabled students allowance

The disability support workers on campus


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4. Your rights if you are a disabled member of staff

The UK has had a range of legislation to protect the rights of various groups of people for a number of years (eg protection on grounds of disability, gender or race/ethnicity). Recently the government brought in a wide-ranging Equality Act (2010) which harmonises the existing laws in a single piece of legislation and extends the protection to a number of new characteristics. This section gives more detailed information on the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act 2010


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5. Working with disabled colleagues

This section gives information on working with colleagues with hearing, mobility and visual impairments and those who work with an assistance dog. It also covers working with people with hidden impairments and mental health issues. There is a useful list of appropriate language to use for disability matters.

It is important to ensure that all written materials are presented in a clear way since text-based materials will be easier for other people to read, both on screen and on paper, if the writer or producer can ensure that certain rules are observed. Some of these rules are covered in this section, and both examples of poorly presented work and acceptable presentation are also included.

Applying the disability legislation to staff

The etiquette for working with disabled people

Increasing the accessibility of written materials


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6. Some information about the various forms of impairment

Different forms of impairment are covered in this section including specific learning differences and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Brief information about various impairments


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7. Support and assistive technology for staff and students

Disabled people can often benefit from the right assistive technology. If the person is a student, the Disabled Students’ Allowances can often provide the funding for the purchase of that technology. Similarly, for a disabled member of staff, the employer has obligations. The disabled person may also be entitled to assistance from the Access to Work government funding.

Assistive Technology


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8. Further information

The Equality and Human Rights Commission opened for business on 1st October 2007, replacing the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). It has a responsibility to help secure civil rights for disabled people.

The commission has runs the following helplines, which are open Monday to Friday 08.00 – 18.00:



telephone: +44 (0)845 604 6610. Textphone +44 (0)845 604 6620.

Email: englandhelpline@equalityhumanrights.com



telephone: +44 (0)845 604 8810. Textphone +44 (0)845 604 8820.

Email: waleshelpline@equalityhumanrights.com



telephone: +44 (0)845 604 5510. Textphone +44 (0)845 604 5520.

Email: scotlandhelpline@equalityhumanrights.com


There are various models of disability (pdf download) which have been used by various researchers (some of whom are disabled people themselves), to describe the position of disabled people within UK society. There are at least three models in current use and these are explained in this pdf download.


More information on equality projects and involvement groups at De Montfort University can be found on the equality team's website.

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