Disability Rights

The information on this website is for general guidance on your rights and responsibilities and is not legal advice. If you need more details on your rights, or legal advice about what action to take, please contact an adviser or solicitor.

What are Disability Rights?

If you have, or have had, a disability, it is unlawful for you to be discriminated against. The Equality Act was passed in 2010 to provide people protection from discrimination. The Equality Act protects disabled people’s rights in relation to matters including employment, education, and access to goods, services and facilities. This replaces the  Disability Discrimination Act (1995).

Definition of Disability

The Equality Act states that a person is disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

  • Long term – means it  has lasted for 12 months, or is likely to last for more than 12 months or for the rest of your life
  • Substantial – means it is not a trivial problem. It has a negative impact on your ability to carry out day to day tasks such as getting dressed.

For more information on the definition of disability please visit www.gov.uk

Normal day-to-day activities include:

  • Mobility
  • Manual dexterity
  • Physical co-ordination
  • Continence
  • Ability to lift, carry or move everyday objects
  • Speech, hearing or eyesight
  • Memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand
  • Understanding of the risk of physical danger

There are some special provisions, for example people who are registered blind or partially sighted, and people who have a progressive health condition. For further details, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Disability Rights UK provide a range of online information and advice on Disability Rights, along with telephone helplines for independent living and disabled student queries.

Types of discrimination

Disability discrimination can take many forms, but is broadly defined as when someone is ‘treated less favourably on the basis of disability’. There are four defined types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination – This means treating someone less favourably than another person because of their disability.
  • Indirect discrimination – This can mean failure to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled person.
  • Harassment – This occurs when a person feels intimidated, humiliated or offended by another person’s conduct regarding their disability. An example of this would be when someone makes jokes about a person’s disability that they find offensive.
  • Victimisation – This means being treated unfairly as a result of making a complaint of discrimination, or giving evidence when somebody else complains of discrimination.

Your rights

We have summarised below the rights that you have as a disabled person under The Equality Act. For a more detailed description, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Your rights at work

The Equality Act makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against people with disabilities in matters relating to:

  • Recruitment
  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • Promotion, transfer, training and benefits
  • Discipline and dismissal
  • Making reasonable adjustments
  • Health and safety
  • Sick leave, sick pay and medical appointments
  • Redundancy
  • Pensions

You may find it useful to looking at the disability in employment section on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

If you think you have been discriminated against at work because of your disability, you should firstly speak to your line manager or someone else in authority. If the matter is not resolved satisfactorily, contact one of the organisations listed below for help and advice.

Your rights of access to goods and services

The Equality Act gives disabled people rights in the way they receive goods, services or facilities. Anyone who provides a service to the public is required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that it is accessible to disabled people. This includes services such as restaurants, shops, libraries, churches and GP surgeries. You can read more about this on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against, the first step should be to speak to the organisation or business concerned. If you do not get a satisfactory response, it is useful to put your concerns in writing. If you are still unhappy with the response, you should contact one of the organisations listed below for further help and advice.

Your rights of access to Adult Social Care

Contact Adult Social Care at Newcastle City Council to start a conversation about what support you need. They can talk to you, or your carer to understand more about you and:

  • give you information and advice
  • signpost you to local services
  • help to arrange assessments to find out what support is available to you

Read more about Adult Social Care in Newcastle on InformationNOW.

Your rights of access to health care

Knowing your rights to health and social care can be difficult, as many medical judgements are not covered by The Equality Act and some social care services are exempt. However, disabled people still have rights to access services as outlined above. Information should be given in a format that is accessible to you and all buildings should be suitable for your needs.

If you are unhappy with health care or treatment you should complain directly to the health service.

If you are not happy with the outcome, or you don’t feel able to do this yourself, contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). PALS provide support and information to patients, their families and carers if they have any concerns about the care they receive from their doctor, hospital or other health care service. The staff can put you in touch with other people or organisations that can help if they can’t resolve your problem.

Read more on InformationNOW about how to complain about health services.

Read more about How to make a good complaint on InformationNOW

Help and advice

Liberty offers a free human rights advice service to members of the public. They can provide advice and information on queries relating to human rights law, but are unable to assist with general legal queries. Liberty cannot advise people who are already represented by a solicitor.

The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) funded by the Government Equality Office, replaces the helpline run by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They can support you if you think you may have experienced discrimination. This service is not available to employers, service providers or educators.

The EASS provides advice and information on discrimination and human rights issues including

  • explaining what the law says and how this applies to people in the country they live in
  • explaining how a situation could be resolved by you

For discrimination issues the service will also be able to

  • support you in attempting to resolve your issue informally
  • if you can’t resolve your issue informally then refer you to a conciliation or mediation service
  • If you need or want to seek a legal solution, help you work out if you if you are eligible for civil legal aid
  • if you are not eligible for civil legal aid then help you find an accessible legal service, or assist you to represent yourself by giving you information and support on how to prepare and lodge a claim.

The EASS cannot provide legal advice.

To access the service you can be referred from local organisations, advisory groups, faith based organisations and other groups working within the community that support people experiencing discrimination.

Scope provide information and support to disabled people, families and carers. They have a free disability telephone helpline. They can answer questions and talk you through a wide range of topics connected with disability. You can call or email them to ask for an interpreter if you need one.


North East Drive Mobility help people with a medical condition or disability that may affect your ability to drive or use a vehicle as a passenger. To help you retain or regain your independence as a driver and passenger. They can assess your driving ability and give advice. They offer:

  • independent assessment of your driving ability: This takes place on their purpose-built driving track, as well as on the public highway
  • advice on vehicle adaptations
  • advice on getting in and out of a vehicle, and wheelchair stowage
  • specialist driving tuition
  • information and advice service, including advice on possible alternatives to using a car. For example, community transport services

Advocacy – Help to get your voice heard

Advocacy is free, independent support to help you to get your voice heard. Advocacy services pair you up with an independent advocate who is on your side if you need support. They can help you to:

  • find information
  • talk things through with you to find out what you want
  • get your views across at appointments and meetings
  • understand your rights
  • access services such as Health, Housing, Adult Social Care
  • make complaints
  • access personal budgets

Read more on InformationNOW about Advocacy

Accessible information

You can change InformationNOW to suit your needs. Our website can be read aloud and translated into other languages. You can change the colour, size and contrast of the website to make it easier to read. You can print out the pages to share with people who aren’t online.

Accessible health and social care information is available in the format you need. This means people with a: disability, sensory loss or impairment can get information in different formats. For example, you could need large print information or a BSL interpreter at medical appointments. You can tell services how they need to communicate with you. They have to do this by law. This is known as the Accessible Information Standard. (section 250 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012)

The NHS App gives you access to your health information.

Other useful information

Equallly Ours is a UK charity that brings together people and organisations working across equality, human rights and social justice to make a reality of these in everyone’s lives.

Newcastle Disability Forum regularly contributes to City Council decision-making processes across various Directorates and are consulted by health providers on a range of issues.

Youreable is Disabled Living Foundation’s forum by and for people living with disabilties. You can find peer support, shared experiences and guidance from others who have experienced challenges to their rigghts due to disability.

Last updated: May 8, 2024