A person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Under the Equality Act, staff (potential, current or past), students (prospective, current or past) and visitors to the University are protected from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of disability – whether this is perceived, actual or associated.


During an interview, a job applicant informs the employer that he has multiple sclerosis. The applicant is unsuccessful and the employer offers the job to someone who does not have a disability. In this case, it will be necessary to look at why the employer did not offer the job to the unsuccessful applicant with multiple sclerosis to determine whether the less favourable treatment was because of his disability.


A lone father caring for a disabled son has to take time off work whenever his son is sick or has medical appointments. The employer appears to resent the fact that the worker needs to care for his son and eventually dismisses him. The dismissal may amount to direct disability discrimination against the worker by association with his son.

The Act also covers discrimination arising from disability – this is where a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something connected to their disability.


A student seeks admission to a university. The student has been diagnosed with depression, hence her attendance may be irregular, and she may be subject to panic attacks. The university says that they cannot admit the student because she needs to attend every day. The refusal to admit the woman is not because of the disability itself; but she is experiencing detrimental treatment as a consequence of her disability. This could therefore constitute discrimination arising from disability.

The University is legally required to make reasonable adjustments to support current and prospective disabled staff and students.

As an employer, the University has a duty to make reasonable adjustments in the recruitment and selection process and during employment. Staff should refer to the Disability and Employment Policy and Guide for further information.

As an education provider, the University is required to take positive steps to ensure that disabled students can fully participate in the student experience – this covers access to education and other benefits, facilities and services. The reasonable adjustment duty does NOT apply to the application of a competence standard which is defined as ‘an academic, medical, or other standard applied by or on behalf of an education provider for the purpose of determining whether or not a person has a particular level of competence or ability’. Staff should refer to the briefing note on Reasonable Adjustments and Competence Standards (PDF, 64 KB) for more information.

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team (email:equality-diversity@bristol.ac.uk or tel: 0117 33 18087) can provide specific advice to colleagues on this area of equality.

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