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Disability History Month

Welcome to Disability History Month 2020

Runs from: 18th November – 18th December

SCODP will be publishing information, advice and we hope interesting articles and videos to mark this year’s disability history month.

2020 Marks 25 years since the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act and 10 years since the introduction of the successor act, the Equalities Act.  During this month we will be asking the question:

What has changed in 25 years for disabled people?



Disability Discrimination Act

The Act was the culmination of a public campaign, and at least 100,000 people in demonstrations, to force the government to end state and business discrimination against disabled people.  While the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 guaranteed minimum standards for equality on grounds of race and gender, there had been very little concerning disabled people. Prior to the DDA, the first attempt to deal with the issue of disability was the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944. This made it a legal requirement for companies with over 250 employees to employ a quota of disabled persons. This failed as there was not now anyone appointed to monitor these rights and as such was toothless.


In addition to imposing obligations on employers, the Act placed duties on service providers and required “reasonable adjustments” to be made when providing access to goods, facilities, services and premises.


The DDA 1995 departed from the fundamental principles of older UK discrimination law (the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976). These Acts made direct discrimination and indirect discrimination unlawful. However, these concepts are insufficient to deal with the issues of disability discrimination.

The core concepts in the DDA 1995 are, instead:

  • less favourable treatment for a reason related to a disabled person’s disability; and
  • failure to make a “reasonable adjustment”.

“Reasonable adjustment” was the radical concept that makes the DDA 1995 so different from the older legislation. Instead of the rather passive approach of indirect discrimination (where someone can take action if they have been disadvantaged by a policy, practice or criterion that a body with duties under the law has adopted), reasonable adjustment is an active approach that requires employers, service providers etc. to take steps to remove barriers from disabled people’s participation. For example:

  • employers are likely to find it reasonable to provide accessible IT equipment;
  • many shops are likely to find it reasonable to make their premises accessible to wheelchair users;
  • councils are likely to find it reasonable to provide information in alternative formats (such as large print) as well as normal written form.


The DDA was repealed in 2010 and replaced by the Equalities Act

Equalities Act 2010

The act has broadly the same goals as the four major EU Equal Treatment Directives, whose provisions it mirrors and implements. However, the act also offers protection beyond the EU directives, protecting against discrimination based on a person’s nationality and citizenship and also extending individuals’ rights in areas of life beyond the workplace in religion or belief, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The Act protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment, and as users of private and public services based on nine protected characteristics: age, disabilitygender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The Act includes provisions for single-sex services where the restrictions are “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.  In the case of disability, employers and service providers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplaces to overcome barriers experienced by disabled people. In this regard, the Equality Act 2010 did not change the law. Under s.217, with limited exceptions the Act does not apply to Northern Ireland.

Baroness Jane Campbell

Disabled People's Campaigner


  1. Baroness Jane Campbell

Baroness Jane Campbell had to fight for the equal rights of disabled people since she was a child. Born in 1959, Jane was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, wherein her parents were told she would be unlikely to survive beyond two years. When Jane proved that wrong, she had to attend a segregated ‘special school’ until age 16 because no mainstream schools would accept her. Campbell then attended Hereward College, (a college specifically for disabled people in Coventry) which introduced her to others passionate about the disability civil rights movement. Jane worked at the GLC (Greater London Council) for many years in the disability unit and was instrumental in establishing  the National Centre For Independent Living which campaigned for and supported organisations offering direct payments support services.  Many gruelling years of campaigning later, Jane became Disability Committee Chair for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2006. Jane became an Independent Crossbencher in the House of Lords as Baroness Campbell of Surbiton in 2007. She still campaigns for disabled people’s rights today.

Ade Adepitan MBE

Athlete and tv presenter

  1. Ade Adepitan MBE

Born on the 27th March 1973, Ade Adepitan is a retired Paralympic athlete and British TV presenter. He contracted polio as a child that led to him using a wheelchair. After joining the wheelchair basketball team, Milton Keynes Aces, Ade qualified to play for Great Britain and won the bronze medal in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens. He has since appeared as a TV personality as part of the presenting team for the Paralympics, Children in Need, and numerous travel documentaries (most recently Africa With Ade Adepitan) for the BBC and Channel 4.