Disability in the UK: What Conditions Qualify?

Written by Zoe Cresswell
Last updated Thursday February 17 2022

What disability means in the UK is not always straightforward. Disability can be physical, mental or both. This article will give you an overview of disabilities in the United Kingdom and some examples of disabilities that qualify for disability benefits. 

What Does the Term Disability Mean?  

A person is considered disabled if they have a self-reported long-standing illness, condition or impairment, which causes difficulty with day-to-day activities. This definition is consistent with the Equality Act 2010, and the Government Statistical Service harmonised definition. 

Disability is extremely diverse. While some health conditions associated with disability result in poor health and extensive healthcare needs, others do not. However, all people with disabilities have the same general healthcare needs as everyone else and need access to mainstream healthcare services. 

Who is Affected by Disabilities? 

Anybody can be affected by disability regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. Some people are born with disabilities, while others develop them over time, and some people become disabled after accidents. Disability affects over one billion people worldwide. The number of people living with disabilities is increasing due to ageing populations and an increase in chronic health conditions. 

What Conditions Qualify as Disabilities? 

Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 says you’re disabled if: 

  • You have a physical or mental impairment. 
  • That impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. 

Some impairments are automatically treated as a disability, such as:  

  • Cancer 
  • Visual impairments (certified as blind, severely sight impaired, sight impaired or partially sighted)  
  • Multiple Sclerosis  
  • HIV infections 
  • Severe disfigurement 

Checking to See If You Have an Impairment 

You have an impairment if your physical or mental abilities are reduced in some way. This could result from a medical condition – for example, if you have arthritis in your hands and can’t grip or carry things very well. 

An impairment doesn’t have to be a diagnosed medical condition. If you’re suffering from stress, you might have: 

  • mental impairments – like difficulty concentrating 
  • physical impairments – like extreme tiredness and difficulty sleeping. 

If you don’t have a diagnosis, you still need medical evidence to show your impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to do day-to-day activities. 

Your impairment doesn’t have to stop you from doing anything, as long as it makes it more challenging. It might cause you pain, make tasks take a long time or mean you can’t do an activity more than once. 

The legal test for disability is based on the impact of your condition without any medication or treatment. Treatment includes things like counselling as well as medication. The legal test doesn’t apply if you have a visual impairment. Legally, you are considered disabled if there’s a significant impact on your eyesight, even when you’re wearing glasses or contact lenses. 

If you are unsure if your condition qualifies as a disability or need information on your condition, you should contact your GP for a diagnosis and more information.  

For more information on your rights or for help and advice, visit our website. Alternatively, contact us for additional support. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated with the latest news and information. 

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Last Updated: Thursday February 17 2022

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