Wheelchair user in front of staircase barrier

by Philippa Willits

Disabled people face discrimination in many areas of their lives. There are access issues with shops and restaurants, even hospitals and health care centres, there is disability discrimination in the employment market, and disabled people can also face prejudice from the people around them. Access to housing can be limited, it can be difficult to access customer services or online services, and disability hate crime is on the rise in the UK.

Disability discrimination is, unfortunately, an ongoing issue. It is something many disabled people are confronted with, making life that bit more difficult to deal with. This article will look at some of the different types of discrimination disabled people might encounter.

Disability discrimination when accessing services

Do you love going to live concerts? Do you wait for the launch of new gig tickets with anticipation, eagerly clicking on the website to buy, the very second they are released?

Unfortunately, at that point, you may find yourself in trouble, as all too often, the accessible seats are not available to book on the website. Instead, you will be told to make a phone call and this can take so long that the best tickets are long gone by the time you get through. Or perhaps you may find it difficult to make a phone call anyway, because you’re Deaf.

Something as simple as going out for a meal can be similarly fraught. If you are invited to a night out with friends, you don’t want to be the party pooper who has to veto the restaurant choice because of inaccessibility, but the only other option might be to not attend. Can you get into the restaurant in a wheelchair? Is there enough space to move around in a scooter? Is the menu available in large print or Braille?

Far too frequently, disabled people are unable to participate in everyday activities or socialise with our friends because of services being inaccessible. This can lead to social isolation and even mental health problems like depression. When alternative options are provided, or services make themselves more accessible to disabled people, these problems are resolved and the degree of disability discrimination faced is considerably reduced.

Disability discrimination at work

Gaining – and maintaining – employment can be a real challenge for a lot of disabled people. It is not that they are incapable of work, it is that nobody will give them a chance because of assumptions that are made about their impairments.

This is also disability discrimination, i.e. treating people less favourably because of their impairments. With this lack of opportunity, disabled people remain in poverty and do not have the chance to excel in their chosen profession.

Often, with small adaptations and changes, an inaccessible workplace can become accessible to a disabled person. When given the chance to show what they can do, somebody can demonstrate their capabilities and impress an employer, but they need to be given that chance in the first place.

Harassment and victimisation of disabled people

Disability discrimination can also come in the form of harassment and abuse. When a disabled person is victimised because of the way other people perceive their impairments, this is a disability hate crime, which is illegal in many EU countries. Whether it is abuse from a stranger on the street, or victimisation by an intimate partner or a family member, this sort of disability discrimination is absolutely unacceptable and it is vital that authorities such as the police and the criminal justice system take it seriously.

Whatever form it takes, disability discrimination is depressingly prevalent and needs to be tackled by a range of public services. Some disabled people experience such prejudice that it becomes almost normalised, and this must be challenged at every level. Every disabled person has the right to live without abuse and fear, and with access to the same products, services and facilities as their non-disabled friends. Awareness campaigns can help, as well as adequate legal and law enforcement back up.