Alcoholics not disabled people, says Equality Act guidance


Alcoholics, people with hayfever and those with tendencies to steal or set fires will not be able to claim protection from disability discrimination under the Equality Act, according to new government guidance.

The draft guidance, published this week by the Office for Disability Issues, says that people with disfigurements caused by tattoos or non-medical body piercings should also not be treated as disabled people under the act.

The act defines a disabled person as someone with a “physical or mental impairment” which has a “substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

People with cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis do not have to meet this test and are protected under the act from the moment they are diagnosed, while those certified as blind, sight-impaired or partially-sighted by a consultant ophthalmologist are also automatically protected.

The final version of the guidance will be used by courts and tribunals to decide whether someone is a disabled person protected from discrimination by the act, which became law earlier this year. Implementation of most of the act begins on 1 October.

The draft guidance includes a string of examples of disabled people who would and would not be protected by the act.

For example, a woman with learning difficulties who finds it difficult travelling alone because she often gets lost in slightly unfamiliar areas would be seen to be experiencing a “substantial adverse effect” on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Other factors that would be seen as having a “substantial adverse effect” on the ability to carry out such activities include “difficulty opening a moderately heavy door” and “persistent difficulty” in remembering the names of family or friends.

But factors that would not be included under the act include “simple clumsiness”, “inability to carry heavy luggage without assistance”, and “inability to sing in tune”.

A consultation on the draft guidance, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales, closes on 31 October 2010. To take part, visit

12 August 2010


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