Does the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 mean that employers
will be forced to recognise that disabled people have valuable
skills and experience to contribute to the employment market?
Too often disabled people are turned down for jobs they are
suitably qualified to do because employers cannot see past their
disabilities. These decisions are often based on the prejudices of
Sadly this does not appear to be confined to those working outside
the disability field – in my experience it is also clearly evident
from those who work with disabled people. It could be argued that
they should know better, but maybe they feel threatened by
professional disabled people who can bring invaluable personal
experience to the job.
But the act means that it is unlawful for employers to discriminate
against potential employees who are disabled. However, it is almost
impossible to prove that one has been discriminated against,
especially when the feedback states that you gave a good interview
but the successful candidate had more experience. This means that
discrimination often goes unchallenged and the disabled person’s
confidence is undermined.
In cases where discrimination is clearly visible it takes a great
deal of determination, time and effort to challenge it. Sometimes
these are things that disabled people run out of just trying to
cope with ordinary life.
When I was pursuing my case against a London authority I sought the
advice of the Disability Rights Commission. I was assigned a
caseworker who despite being up in Manchester was with me every
step of the way. She led me through the maze of complex procedures
that needed to be dealt with in order for me to log my complaint at
tribunal level. My caseworker proposed that the DRC award me legal
Things moved quickly after that and the council began to take the
case seriously. Ultimately it was settled out of court with the
authority admitting that they were guilty of discriminating against
me. Without the act this victory would not have been possible.
Employees should now be aware that they are entitled to use the
Disability Discrimination Act to challenge acts of discrimination.
Hopefully, employers will start recognising this and start to
employ a more diverse group of people that have valuable skills and
experience to offer.
Julie Turner is an outreach worker for a direct payment