The advantages of the disability discrimination act

Written by elissa bassini
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The advantages of the disability discrimination act
The U.K.'s Disability Discrimination Act promotes egalitarianism in society with respect to opportunities for disabled persons. (handicap image by silonos from Fotolia.com)

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) is a civil rights act in the United Kingdom (U.K.) that makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in most public circumstances. The DDA was passed in 1995 with the specific objective of protecting against discrimination due to disability in employment and in providing goods and services. The U.K. has since significantly enhanced the DDA's advantages by extending its scope to grant disabled persons legally protected civil rights in nearly all critical areas of life.

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DDA Definitions and Overview - Advantages Generally

The DDA's overarching advantage is its minimisation of discrimination toward disabled people in the U.K. It provides fundamental egalitarianism in society through equal rights in employment; access to goods, services and facilities; transactions in real estate property; use of public transport; and education.

Pursuant to the DDA, a person is "disabled" if he has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial effect on his ability to perform normal day-to-day activities. U.K. lawmakers recognise that a person suffering from such an impairment should be entitled to equal life opportunities, but that stereotypes against the "disabled" generally have resulted in ready and rampant discrimination against most disabled people. Thus, the DDA's greatest overall strength is the awareness it has created among employers, businesses and educators that a disabled person can function and succeed--in equal measures as one fully abled--if given reasonably accommodating conditions.

DDA Advantages in the Employment Context

Under the DDA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against disabled workers in all aspects of employment for any reason related to their disability, unless differential treatment can be justified for a valid business purpose. The DDA's critical advantage in the employment context is that it grants otherwise qualified disabled employees the legal right to "reasonable adjustments in the workplace." Specifically, the DDA imposes a duty on all employers to make "reasonable adjustments" to ensure that a disabled employee is not placed at a substantial disadvantage by certain employment arrangements and/or any physical features of the workplace itself.

This DDA-created equal opportunity system is advantageous to employees, employers and the overall business economy because it provides optimal conditions for hiring and/or retaining qualified employees. The word "reasonable" is key in helping businesses adhere to the law. For example, employers are not obligated to take "unreasonable" measures such as hiring and/or retaining disabled people unsuited for specific jobs; paying for adjustments disproportionate to the employees' benefits; or any action that would cause disruption to the business while work is being carried out. Rather, the DDA simply requires employers to instil feasible policies to ensure that workers' medical conditions do not hinder their professional opportunities.

The advantages of the disability discrimination act
Under the DDA, disabled employees are entitled to equal opportunities to succeed in their chosen business professions. (business is business - cliché image by Jeffrey Zalesny from Fotolia.com)

DDA Advantages in the Field of Education

In 2001, the U.K. amended the original DDA to incorporate the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act (SENDA). Under this law, disabled students are legally guaranteed equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the country's educational programs.

The act has generated numerous advantages for all students, disabled or not, as well as their teachers, families and colleagues. The DDA provides a pragmatic means for schools to focus on institutional changes rather than on a case-by-case basis. The institutional compliance has had a far-reaching and lasting impact in schools. The DDA requires that schools implement feasible disability equality programs, and it provides legal guidance to educators. Ultimately, it motivates educators to recognise and fulfil the needs of all students, and thereby creates an inclusive learning environment that promotes a cohesive student body and enhances the academic experience for all.

The advantages of the disability discrimination act
The DDA obligates educational institutions in the U.K. to implement equal opportunity schemes for disabled students. (school bus image by Lombok from Fotolia.com)

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