Information on Disabilities

Degrees of Intellectual Disability

Disabled People

A person is considered “disabled” under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.  ‘Substantial’ means more than minor or trivial, and ‘long term’ means for a year or more.

The range of people included is very much wider than those who use wheelchairs or need guide dogs.  In fact, fewer than one in twelve disabled people in the UK are wheelchair users.  Very many impairments are not obvious or visible, and may vary in their effect from day to day.  Some conditions are complex and difficult to understand.  It is certainly not always possible to tell, just by looking or talking to someone, whether they have an impairment or not.

What types of impairment are there and what do they all mean?

Physical impairment:

The impairments  which limit a person’s ability to do physical activity such as walking or carrying, and are visible to the casual observer, are traditionally thought of as “a disability”.  These include injury; muscular dystrophy; multiple sclerosis; cerebral palsy; or amputation.  However, there are a number of others, such as epilepsy or respiratory disorders which, although they may not be visible, are equally limiting.

Learning Disability:

A learning disability affects the way a person understands information and how they communicate. Around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, and may find it more difficult to understand new or complex information, learn new skills and cope independently with everyday tasks, than most people of the same age.

A learning disability can be mild, moderate or severe. Some people with a mild learning disability can talk easily and look after themselves, but take a bit longer than usual to learn new skills. Others may not be able to communicate at all and have more than one disability.  Everyone with Down's syndrome, for example, has some kind of learning disability, and so do many people with cerebral palsy. People with autism may also have learning disabilities, and around 30% of people with epilepsy have a learning disability.

Fewer than one in ten people with learning difficulties are in paid work, but given suitable support, many people with a learning disability will be hard-working and reliable employees.

Sensory impairments:

Visual impairment

There are 1.8 million people in the UK living with sight loss that has a significant impact on their daily lives; the majority of whom retain some useful vision. With appropriate technology and minor adjustments to the workplace, together with the right training, skills and experience, a visually impaired person can do just about any job.  

Hearing loss and speech problems

One in six of the population has some form of hearing loss.  Someone with a hearing impairment may have a partial or complete hearing loss; they may have had it from birth, it may be temporary, or it may be gradually increasing over time

Progressive Conditions:

HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and arthritis.

Autism / Asperger (or Asperger’s) Syndrome:

a developmental disorder affecting a person’s ability to communicate, engage in social interactions and respond appropriately to the environment.

Mental Health issues:

One person in four is likely to experience a mental health issue in a year, affecting the way they feel, think or behave. These can include: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder,  schizophrenia, stress related issues, anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia.

These can be quite manageable with appropriate support and understanding, and there is no reason that someone with a mental health condition cannot succeed in the workplace.

Hidden Impairments:

Such as  head injury, dyslexia, heart disease, depression, diabetes, asthma, Crohn’s disease and epilepsy.

Further information:

Remploy Ltd publish information and advice on specific impairments.