Disability in the UK

22% of the UK population are disabled and 18% of that group are of working age.

In education, only 4% of the workforce identify as disabled.

Many people are born disabled, many people become disabled later in life. Most people’s disabilities remain with them for life, but some people are disabled by illness or injury that they can recover from after a period of healing.

Disabilities can be physical or mental. They can be visible to other people or hidden.

We know that disabled people are underemployed- even if they have the necessary qualifications. When it comes to hidden disabilities we also know that there are many barriers, both real and perceived, to ‘coming out’ as disabled in the workplace.

Some disabled teachers have also reported that their Senior Leadership Team have not recognised their disability.

England, Scotland and Wales

In England, Scotland or Wales, disability is defined by the Equalities Act 2010.

‘You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’

  • ‘substantial’ means it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task
  • ‘long-term’ means 12 months or more
  • ‘mental impairment’ includes conditions defined under the DSM or ICD

There are special rules about recurring or fluctuating conditions and certain progressive conditions meet the definition of disability from the date of diagnosis e.g. HIV, Cancer or Multiple Sclerosis.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, disability is defined by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

“A person has a disability for the purposes of this Act if he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”


For more information about what constitutes a disability in your area, please click on the links in the text.