Whether it’s intentional or not, disability discrimination does exist. In many countries around the world there are no legal requirements for businesses to give disabled employees and visitors equal access to opportunities. But what about when you head down the street? Get on a bus? What about when you want education or simply want to apply for a job? Does your disability mean that you have less chance that someone without that disability?
There are two different types of discrimination that a generally applied to the workplace and access to public spaces – direct and indirect.
In direct discrimination, you are treated less well than someone without your disability would be treated in the same circumstances. For example, you are in a wheelchair and a business allows you access to certain areas but others are ‘off limits’. There may be good reasons for this, such as lack of finance to improve things, but it is discrimination all the same.
Indirect discrimination is a little more nuanced. It involves putting in measures or a policy that are for everyone but actually unfairly discriminate against someone with a disability. An example would be a public building that has a lift to get everyone to the different floors but stairs outside the main entrance. Disabled people in a wheelchair have to go around the back of the building to access entry to the building – they can get in but it is more difficult. Another example would be a business that produces literature for its employees but doesn’t provide brail editions for people with sight impairment or simpler versions for those with learning difficulties.
Of course, there are sometimes occasions when lack of access is justifiable either for health and safety reasons or something unavoidable. For the majority of cases, though, every effort should be made to ensure that disabled people have the equal access they need.
While access in the workplace workplace and areas such as shops have come on considerably in the last ten to fifteen years, disabled people still experience discrimination in a wide variety of ways, some of the most common being:
Of course, disability doesn’t just cover people with mobility issues. Someone with cerebral palsy is no less intelligent than someone who was born without the disability. A person with Parkinson’s Disease may shake a lot but it doesn’t mean they are stupid.
Most disabled people don’t expect to live in a perfect world. But they do expect, when possible, for the help and assistance to be there and not to be treated differently just because of their condition. If you have a disability you should have access to all areas unless there is a really good reason why you shouldn’t (and generally there isn’t).