Knowing your rights as a disabled person in applications and employment

Audio version of this blog – click play above

Knowing your rights is crucial, regardless of your circumstances. If you know your rights, you’ll always be able to exercise them accordingly. Whilst everyone has the same fundamental rights in the UK, it’s important to understand that some groups have extra protection against discrimination. Those of us with disabilities and neurodiversities included.

There can be so much information that it can be challenging to know where to start when you’re learning about your rights. Luckily, Bua recently released a free course: ‘Knowing Your Rights – Tips For Applications, Interviews and Employment’. It’s short and informative; you just need to sign up to access it.

This blog will act as a companion piece to that course, offering a breakdown of the content for quick and accessible referencing. Although, when you have the time, I do recommend completing the course. It’s great.

Sign on a lamppost reading "every human has rights"

What is a disability?

Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long-term effect on your health and well-being. ‘Substantial’ in this case is determined by the impact your condition has on your ability to achieve simple tasks. ‘Long-term’ is defined as being ongoing for more than a year.

Disabilities can include physical and sensory impairments, neurodiversity, long-term health conditions and mental health challenges.

Models of disability

These models are used by society to view and define disability and impact how people approach disability. There are loads of different types, and you might not even know you’re using them.  

Medical Model: The disability is an individual issue caused by illness, trauma or condition requiring care.

Social Model: Disability is viewed as a socially created issue that we can fix through the adaption and integration of disabled individuals.

Champion Model: We are all unique with our skills and abilities, which should be seen and celebrated, and we should be creating environments that enable this thinking.

Barriers in the workplace

Barriers you need to be aware of include attitude-based barriers and inaccessibility-centric issues.

Attitude Barriers:

  • Applying medical model thinking
  • Lack of understanding of disabled experience
  • Ableism and internalised ableism

Accessibility Barriers:

  • People being unaware that they’ve created accessibility issues.
  • Is information provided in an accessible way across different formats?

Unaware of Legal Obligations:

  • Your workplace doesn’t know about ‘Access to work’/ doesn’t have policies in place about it.

No Signposting:

  • The hiring team is unaware of the company’s available support or helpful legislation.

All of these things can be seen as barriers in the workplace that can prevent a disabled of neurodiverse person from integrating to the best of their ability.

Image of a road with signs and barriers saying "road closed"

The Law

The Equality Act (2010) is a legal framework protecting individuals’ rights and creating equality and opportunity for everyone. This act protects a person from:

(a) unfair treatment and;

(b) promotes a more fair and equitable society.

The nine protected characteristics are age, disability, gender or sexuality, marriage or partnership, race, religion and beliefs. The Equality Act also defines disability as the UK government recognises it. This definition is written with the medical model in mind.

Businesses must provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers if they are at a significant disadvantage to their peers. This can include providing equipment, changing practices, removing physical features, or providing alternative access. Accommodations should be carried out as quickly as possible to reduce barriers.

Discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination means treating someone less favourably than someone else because of a protected characteristic. There are several forms of discrimination:

Direct: A person is treated more poorly because of a protected characteristic.

Indirect: This can happen if policies or laws are implemented which negatively affect those with protected characteristics and not others.

Harassment: Where a person violates your dignity, or their actions create an uncomfortable or hostile environment for you.

Victimisation: Where people may treat you unjustly if you are taking action under the Equality Act or are helping someone else to do so.  

What to do if you’ve faced discrimination?

If you feel discriminated against in the workplace, visit the Equality Advisory and Support Service. They help walk you through the process of fighting discrimination; this includes rectifying denial of reasonable accommodations.

Equality and Human Rights Commission is great for legal advice, and Disability Rights (UK) is brilliant for helping you approach uncomfortable situations in the workplace.

More resources are linked in the course, which you can find on Bua’s website.

Scales of justice statue

About Bua

Bua’s mission is to help give disabled and neurodiverse people the skills they need to break into the creative industry. Bua offers free, accessible courses allowing you to build a portfolio and enter creative work. Bua also consults with organisations to be more inclusive.

About the author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disabilities. Her goal is to share her story and others like it with passion and conviction.

Leave a Reply