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Disability Discrimination Legislation in Northern Ireland


The Information Team provide information on disability legislation and how this affects disabled people and their carers.


This includes legislation on rights and services, for example, Direct Payments, where a disabled person can choose to arrange their own and The Disabled Persons Act, which established the rights of disabled people to a social services assessment. We also provide information on carers’ rights and Social Services obligations towards carers.


Although we cannot provide legal advice we can refer clients onto other organisations who may have legal expertise. Please note we cannot recommend solicitors or barristers.


Disability Discrimination Act


The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) came into effect in 1995.


The DDA protects disabled people in the areas of:

  1. Employment
  2. Access to goods, facilities and services
  3. Buying or renting land or property

Under the DDA, discrimination occurs where:


  • a disabled person is treated less favourably than someone else for a reason relating to the person’s disability; and this treatment cannot be justified
  • there is a failure to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person


The DDA defines disability as:


“A 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.”


For more information on the DDA, follow the link below to the Equality Commission’s website:


Equality Commission Northern Ireland





A law relating to disability discrimination in education came into effect on the 1st September 2005.


This law is called the Special Education Needs and Disability(Northern Ireland) Order 2005, also known as SENDO. SENDO applies to schools, education and library boards, colleges and universities.


SENDO makes it unlawful for schools, education and library boards, colleges and universities to discriminate against disabled people for reasons relating to their disability. SENDO also places a duty on educational establishments to make reasonable adjustments to enable people with disabilities to have the same access to education as people without disabilities.


SENDO (2005) was amended by the ‘Special Educational Needs and Disability (General Qualifications Bodies) (Relevant Qualifications, Reasonable Steps and Physical Features) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008.’ These regulations came into force on 1 April 2008, and outline the list of qualifications in respect of which it is unlawful for a general qualifications body to discriminate against a disabled person.


For more information on SENDO, follow the link below to the Equality Commission’s website:


Equality Commission Northern Ireland





The Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order (DDO) 2006 makes some changes to the DDA (1995).


The DDO 2006 amends the definition of disability so that people with progressive conditions such as cancer, HIV infection or multiple sclerosis (MS) will be deemed to be disabled from the point of diagnosis.


Under the DDO, mental health no longer has to be ‘clinically well recognised’ before it can count as an impairment under the DDA. This means that people with mental illnesses have the same protections as all other people with disabilities. 


From 1 January 2007, the DDO placed new duties on public authorities to:


  • promote positive attitudes towards disabled people; and
  • encourage participation by disabled people in public life.


Public authorities are also under a duty to submit plans to the Equality Commission, referred to as ‘disability action plans’, showing how they propose to fulfil the disability duties in relation to their functions.


For more information on the DDO, follow the link below to the Equality Commission’s website:


Equality Commission Northern Ireland



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