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When Was The Disability Discrimination Act First Introduced

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Equal Employment Opportunity For Individuals With Disabilities

BBC, 25 years since the Disability Discrimination Act was introduced to give better legal protection

This title is designed to help people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.

This portion of the law is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with this law. The regulations for Title I define disability, establish guidelines for the reasonable accommodation process, address medical examinations and inquiries, and define direct threat when there is significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual employee with a disability or others.

Americans With Disabilities Act

The ADA was passed in 1990. This piece of civil rights legislation covers many areas of life for people with disabilities. It applies to employment and to participation in state and local government. It also applies to participation in community life. In short, it helps to ensure that people with disabilities do not experience discrimination in all areas of public life.

The ADA was first drafted by the National Council on Disability. Two people introduced the ADA into Congress. They were Senator Lowell Weicker and Representative Tony Coelho . After 2 years of advocacy and negotiation, in 1990, Congress passed the ADA with support from both the Democratic and Republican parties. The ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

The ADA is a complaint-based law. This means that the only time when a law enforcement agency examines discrimination against people with disabilities is when that agency receives a complaint.

Defining Who Is Disabled

A disabled person under the Disability Discrimination Act is someone with a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A substantial effect is defined as one that is more than trivial: this definition is still being clarified in case law, but it is certainly possible to argue in many cases that the impact of psychiatric impairments is more than trivial. Where treatment mitigates the adverse effect, the person is still generally covered: the impairment has to be regarded as it would have been had there not been any treatment. For example, Mr Kapadia developed depression and was dismissed from his job as a local authority accountant. He took a case under the Act, which eventually went to the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2000, supported by the Disability Rights Commission. The tribunal ruled that, although his symptoms were mitigated by treatment, he should be viewed as a disabled person under the Act because if he had not had treatment he would clearly have been covered. This is a helpful judgment in clarifying that when someone receives symptom-reducing treatment such as medication or cognitive therapy, this does not mean that they lose protection against discrimination.

The implications that this definition of disability might have for psychiatrists are shown in Box 4.

Box 4Disability and psychiatrists

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Developments In Learning Disability Law: To Understand Developments In Learning Disability Law It Is First Necessary To Understand That The Law Derives From Two Main Sources Which Are:

  • Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments enacted under powers given by the Acts. These are known as statutory sources and include European Community Legislation, which automatically becomes part of UK Law statutory sources take precedence over other laws.
  • Common Law often known as case law. This includes decisions by judges in individual cases, which are often, but not always, interpretations of statutory sources. Common Law can include decisions by Tribunals. A pre-requisite of Common Law is a reliable system of reporting decisions. There is a system of precedence in Common Law, based on a hierarchy of Courts, with the Supreme Court as the ultimate UK Court. The Supreme Court is bound by relevant decisions of the European Court of Justice.

Learning Disability Law does draw a distinction between learning disability and mental illness, but there is considerable overlap, which this chronological account will attempt to explain.

1713-44: Common Law drew distinction between learning disability and mental illness before the first statutory sources, which began with the Vagrancy Acts between 1713 and 1744. The Vagrancy Acts allowed detention of Lunaticks or mad persons, which was the 18th century definition of mental illness.

1774-1845: Further legislation followed in 1774 with an Act to regulate private madhouses and the 1845 Lunatics Act included Person of unsound mind.

2005: The Mental Capacity Act 2005: this important legislation is discussed separately here.

Prohibition Of Age Discrimination

Did you know that back in 1995 the Disability ...

Employer practices It shall be unlawful for an employer-

to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age

to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age or

to reduce the wage rate of any employee in order to comply with this chapter.

It shall be unlawful for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherÂwise to discriminate against, any individual because of such individual’s age, or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of such individual’s age.

Labor organization practices It shall be unlawful for a labor organization-

Lawful practices age an occupational qualification other reasonable factors laws of foreign workplace seniority system employee benefit plans discharge or discipline for good cause It shall not be unlawful for an employer, employment agency, or labor organization-

Practices of foreign corporations controlled by American employers foreign employers not controlled by American employers factors determining control

Employment as firefighter or law enforcement officer

Seniority system or employee benefit plan compliance

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Achieving A Better Life Experience Act


The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act improved financial stability and employment options for persons with disabilities by authorizing tax-advantaged savings accounts for youth and adults with disabilities. Assets in ABLE accounts can be used to cover any qualified disability-related expenses and are not counted when determining eligibility for federally funded means-tested benefits, including Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. As a result, people with disabilities can save earnings from employment without jeopardizing eligibility for needed benefits.

Picture: People celebrating the availability of the ABLE Act.

Powers Duties And Functions

  • The Commission may, on application or on its own initiative, by order, issue a guideline setting out the extent to which and the manner in which, in the opinion of the Commission, any provision of this Act applies in a class of cases described in the guideline.

  • A guideline issued under subsection is, until it is revoked or modified, binding on the Commission and any member or panel assigned under subsection 49 with respect to the resolution of a complaint under Part III regarding a case falling within the description contained in the guideline.

    • R.S., 1985, c. H-6, s. 27
    • 1998, c. 9, s. 20
    • 28 On the recommendation of the Commission, the Governor in Council may, by order, assign to persons or classes of persons specified in the order who are engaged in the performance of the duties and functions of the Department of Employment and Social Development such of the duties and functions of the Commission in relation to discriminatory practices in employment outside the federal public administration as are specified in the order.

    • Subject to the approval of the Governor in Council, the Commission may enter into agreements with similar bodies or authorities in the provinces providing for the performance by the Commission on behalf of those bodies or authorities of duties or functions specified in the agreements or for the performance by those bodies or authorities on behalf of the Commission of duties or functions so specified.

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    What Is The Equality Act

    The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect the rights of individuals from unfair treatment, promoting a fair and more equal society. The Act replaces the Disability Discrimination Act and other discrimination laws. So, many of the rights and duties under the DDA remain largely the same and are carried forward under the new Act. Some of these rights and duties are now stronger and there are also new rights and duties.

    90% of the Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some provisions in the Act come into force later, to allow people and organisations time to prepare.

    The Act prohibits discrimination against people with a protected characteristic as follows: age disability race religion or belief sex sexual orientation gender reassignment marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.

    The Act protects the rights of a wide range of people with sensory, mental or physical impairments from unlawful discrimination. It gives disabled people rights to buy goods and access facilities, services and public functions, as well as employment, transport, education, and premises. Carers and other people associated with a disabled person or disabled individuals are also protected for the first time.

    Do not make assumptions about disabled people based on speculation or stereotypes. Ask disabled people themselves how they can best be served. Consult with disability organisations. If you are a disabled person, do not allow yourself to be discriminated against.

    Protection From Discrimination In Employment

    What did the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) ever do for us?

    Part II of the Disability Discrimination Act covers protection from discrimination in employment. The Act makes it illegal for employers to treat someone less favourably for a reason related to their disability, unless this can be justified under the provisions of the Act. Less favourable treatment is justified only for a reason that is both material to the individual case and substantial. This means that, for example, if someone with major concentration difficulties applied for a job as a signal operator or train driver, the employer could seek medical evidence in the form of a risk assessment about whether it would be safe for this particular person to undertake this particular role. If not, even after considering whether any reasonable adjustments might make it possible, the employer would be justified in refusing to appoint the person. The risk assessment needs to be made on the basis of the particular facts, i.e. it must look at the individual concerned and the role in question.

    Employers and employees currently exempted from the Act include prison officers, firefighters, police officers and the armed forces, although with the exception of the armed forces this is due to change in 2004. The law does not debar positive discrimination in favour of disabled people and it allows disability-specific charities and supported employment agencies positively to discriminate in employing people with specific impairments .

    Implications of Part II for psychiatrists

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    What Is A Substantial Disadvantage

    A disadvantage that is more than minor or trivial is called a substantial disadvantage. The level of disadvantage created by a lack of reasonable adjustments is measured in comparison with what the position would be if the disabled student in question did not have a disability.

    A further or higher education institution will need to take into account a number of factors when considering what a substantial disadvantage might be, such as:

    • the time and effort that might need to be expended by a disabled student
    • the inconvenience, indignity or discomfort a disabled student might suffer
    • the loss of opportunity or the diminished progress a disabled student might make in comparison with his or her peers who are not disabled.

    For Example:

    A sixth form college has several sites and students are required to move between sites to attend different classes. This is likely to place a student with mobility difficulties at a substantial disadvantage as they may find it hard to move between sites and arrive late for classes as a result. This is likely to be a substantial disadvantage.

    Disability Discrimination Act 1995

    Long title An Act to make it unlawful to discriminate against disabled persons in connection with employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services or the disposal or management of premises to make provision about the employment of disabled persons and to establish a National Disability Council
    1 October 2010 .
    Other legislation

    The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which has now been repealed and replaced by the Equality Act 2010, except in Northern Ireland where the Act still applies. Formerly, it made it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.

    The DDA is a civil rights law. Other countries use constitutional, social rights or criminal law to make similar provisions. The Equality and Human Rights Commission combats discrimination. Equivalent legislation exists in Northern Ireland, which is enforced by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission.

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    The Bill A Model For Bipartisanship Addressed Hideous Discrimination Faced By People With Disabilities

    In January 1987, I sat down at a word processor in my small office at the National Council on Disability and began writing the first draft of a bill. NCD published my draft of the Americans with Disabilities Act bill in 1988 it was introduced in Congress with a few changes that same year, and provided the basis for the revised version that was signed into law July 26, 1990. On the ADAs 25th anniversary, I want to tell the unlikely story of how this historic federal law came to be, and to reflect on what the law has accomplished.

    The ADA was a response to an appalling problem: widespread, systemic, inhumane discrimination against people with disabilities. In 1971, a New York judge described people with disabilities as the most discriminated minority in our nation. Large numbers of children with disabilities were systematically excluded from American public schools. In the early 1970s, according to widely quoted estimates, approximately 1 million school-aged individuals with disabilities were totally excluded from public educational programs, and another 3 million pupils with disabilities attended public schools but were not provided services to meet their basic educational needs. This meant that well over half of all kids with disabilities were not receiving minimally adequate education.

    In a variety of ways, the ADA has lived up to the hopeful expectations that accompanied its passage. Among various areas of particular impact are the following:

    Protection From Discrimination In The Provision Of Goods Services And Facilities

    Disability Awareness at Work

    Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act concerns protection from discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities.

    The Act makes it illegal for providers of any services from banking to ballet to treat someone less favourably for a reason related to disability, unless this is justified under the provisions of the Act. Less-favourable treatment might, for example, be justified if it is necessary in order not to endanger the health and safety of anyone, or if the person lacks capacity to enter into an agreement about the service to be provided.

    The Act also makes it illegal not to make reasonable adjustments to enable a disabled person to use services, again unless this is justified. Public, private and voluntary-sector service providers of all sizes are covered, including general practitioner surgeries, NHS trusts and local authorities. Thus, someone with schizophrenia given a lower quality of physical health care than other patients could bring a challenge under the Act, as could someone asked to leave a shop or not given time to explain financial needs at a bank.

    From 2004, stronger requirements will apply in terms of making physical adjustments to premises and facilities. For example, NHS facilities will have to take reasonable steps to ensure access to wheelchair users.

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    Introduction To The Ada

    The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — the ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities.

    To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

    Disability Discrimination Act: 1995 And Now

    The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was the first UK legislation protecting disabled people against various forms of discrimination. Years of campaigning and protests led up to the passing of the act, including incidents of civil disobedience. This article tells the story of the act and looks at what came next for disability rights.

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