What is discrimination on the grounds of disability?

Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments (for example, as a result of a curable or non-curable illness) which, in interaction with other barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others in the long term.

The prohibition of discrimination may be violated, when certain rights are denied to a person and they are treated differently better or worse than someone else due to their disability. Moreover, there are different ways in which discrimination can occur, which is not always in a direct and overt manner. Therefore, it is important to recognize different types of discrimination.

Whilst discrimination based on disability may occur in many areas of life, the most common areas of possible discrimination are employment relationships and access to goods and services.

Employment

Human rights prohibit discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, salary, job assignments, promotions, training, and any other term or condition of employment.

example Discrimination on the grounds of disability may occur in cases where an employer denies a job to a person in a wheelchair under the pretext that other employees do not want to see someone in a wheelchair.

There may, however, be exceptions in the employment area where different treatment on the grounds of disability can be objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim.

example Certain physical abilities are required in particular jobs, like work on a construction site, and such a job could not, therefore, be performed by someone in a wheelchair.

There are certain situations when an employer has a duty to provide for reasonable accommodation for disabled people.

Goods and services

Discrimination based solely on the ground of disability is also prohibited in the area of access to goods and services, both public and private. Moreover, reasonable accommodation should be ensured for access to public services. Certain requirements are also in force for the private sector. For example, the requirement of access for people with disabilities has to be taken into account in the construction of new buildings.

There are, however, situations where it is objective and reasonable to deny certain services due to a disability in order to protect other legitimate interests like public safety.

example Discrimination may occur when a blind person is denied entrance to café due to the perception that he or she may be a burden to other customers. However, for the purposes of public safety it is reasonable to deny a blind person an application for a driver’s test.

In this Guide, you can read more about the most common areas of daily life where discriminatory practices may occur.

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