People with Disabilities

Disability is one of the protected characteristics in The Equality Act 2010 which builds on and strengthens the previous Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The legislation protects employees or service users from being discriminated against, or harassed, on the grounds of disability. This includes access to goods, facilities, services and education.

The legal definition of disability refers to ‘physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

Equality legislation also means that service providers are permitted to treat disabled people more fairly than non-disabled people. You may also restrict your services to disabled people only. 

Improving Access for people with disabilities 

The Equality Act 2010 includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to your services, facilities, goods etc., to improve access for disabled people. This includes adjusting your premises or providing additional special equipment.

Any community project should aim to be accessible to all, including people with disabilities and sensory impairments. This includes access to information, buildings and transport.

Examine your practices and consider what steps you can take to ensure people with disabilities can participate. 

For people with physical disabilities:-

  • ensure that you choose a venue which is accessible to wheelchairs and people who have mobility difficulties: look for ramps, rails, wide doorways, disabled toilets, etc.
  • disabled parking spaces should be available close to the doorway
  • provide accessible transport

For people with visual impairments:-

  • information and publicity can be produced in large print formats.  Use of colour, contrast of print in relation to background, and bold print will affect the visibility of posters
  • radio and audio-tapes are more useful than written information
  • large visual symbols can replace text
  • room interiors are more navigable if distinctly different colours are used for walls, floors, doors, furniture etc.
  • strip lighting doesn't throw shadows and is therefore more helpful

For people who are hard of hearing or deaf:-

  • when hiring a venue ask about facilities for people using hearing aids, for example, loop systems
  • information can be conveyed by a British Sign Language translator
  • provide pen and paper to assist people to communicate
  • use clear signs, both words and pictures, to inform


Making reasonable adjustments to your communication skills

The Equality Act 2010 includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to your services, facilities, goods etc to improve access for disabled people.

Making reasonable adjustments to the ways in which you communicate with people with disabilities is also important. Some of these will come naturally but it is always worthwhile reminding yourself:-

  • communicate directly with the person with the disability - not to the person accompanying them (including sign language interpreters) and concentrate on what the person is saying, not on the disability
  • if the person is hard of hearing or deaf - find out whether they can lip-read (if necessary you can ask this in writing) If they do - make sure your face is in the light, look directly at them, speak clearly and naturally, and keep your hands away from your face
  • if the person is visually impaired or blind - introduce yourself when you meet them.  When you are leaving/moving away - tell them. If you are guiding a person who is blind - do not push or pull them. Ask if they would like to take hold of your arm, and if there are steps, tell them whether they go up or down.  Remember that guide dogs for blind people and hearing dogs for deaf people are not pets and should not be petted, fed or distracted whilst working
  • if the person has a speech impairment - concentrate on what is being said, be patient, and if you do not understand do not pretend you do
  • if someone, perhaps with a learning disability, has difficulty understanding you, be patient and be prepared to explain something more than once, using simple language
  • when talking to a wheelchair user ensure your eyes are at their eye level - perhaps by sitting down
  • assistance should be offered to someone who looks as if they need it, but wait for their acceptance

Other Community Toolkit Topics to look at:



Further sources of information

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Last Updated 03/04/2013 13:06