Staff Information | Definition

Access to Learning Project


Learning and Teaching Resources

compiled by Lotte Hammer

Navigation Buttons


The definition of disability

The amended DDA 1995 states that:

“A person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities.”

The definition of disability includes:

  • physical disabilities
  • mental health difficulties (these are no longer required to be clinically well-recognised in order for a person to be considered disabled under the Act)
  • learning difficulties
  • sensory impairments
  • severe disfigurements
  • progressive conditions that are expected to become substantial with an effect on day-to-day activities
  • conditions with a number of effects which, taken together, have a substantial cumulative effect (such as pain or fatigue)
  • people with a history of disability even if they have recovered (e.g. a person who has had a mental health issue in the past).

Again, definition of key concepts may aid understanding of who is disabled under the law:

  1. substantial – means that an impairment has to have a considerable (i.e. not trivial or minor) effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
  2. long-term effect is when it has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more. This definition also covers recurrent or variable conditions if their effect, when present, is substantial, and their recurrence will continue beyond 12 months. Progressive conditions, such as cancer and HIV are covered from the point of diagnosis as the effect is most likely to be substantial.
  3. ‘normal day-to-day activities’ are activities which are carried out by most people on a relatively regular basis. When determining the extent to which an impairment has a substantial and long-term effect on normal day-to-day activities:
    1. mobility
    2. manual dexterity
    3. physical co-ordination
    4. continence
    5. ability to lift, carry or otherwise move everyday objects
    6. speech, hearing or eyesight
    7. memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand
    8. perception of the risk of physical danger
  4. normal day-to-day activities for students would include:
    1. teaching: classes, lectures, seminars, practical sessions
    2. curriculum design
    3. examinations and assessments
    4. field trips and outdoor education
    5. arranging study abroad or work placements
    6. outings and trips
    7. research degrees and research facilities
    8. informal/optional study skill sessions
    9. accommodation

      ...but also virtually every aspect of University life

Font Size:

Text Colour:

Background Colour: