I recently had an online discussion in an employment law website, where the subject of disability had been brought up. A contributor felt that people with dyslexia would be offended if labelled as disabled.
Unfortunately many people still think that being considered “disabled” is insulting.
Being disabled nowadays is not the equivalent of being called a “cripple”. Being disabled means that a person with impairment (a physical one, a learning disability, or other condition) will use their initiative and skill to live their lives as independently as they can. But, if they are discriminated against for a reason related to their impairment, the law will step in and protect them.
For example: someone with dyslexia (whether it’s severe or not) might use a screen reader to get information from the web or text on a computer screen and also use a speech-to-text software to write on the computer. This often bypasses their dyslexia and enables them independence in their work.
However if for any reason they are prevented from using this equipment by their employers, the latter would be effectively disabling them. Hence the Equality Act steps in and stops an employer discriminating against the worker with dyslexia. The employer is the one “disabling” them – not their dyslexia alone.
Another example: I am severely deaf and at work I need an amplified phone and a palantypist to help during meetings (the palantypist provides live-captions on a screen, showing what is being said). In this instance I might not consider myself disabled at all (although I am still as deaf as a bell). But if an employer was to prevent me from accessing an amplified telephone or a palantypist, then they would be disabling me. This is where the law steps in and helps prevent things like this from happening.
People with mild or severe dyslexia, with a learning difficulty or any other condition can view themselves as they wish, a cripple, a superhero, a mother or husband or simply a man – or any other “label” they wish to put on themselves: it’s their choice. But it’s important to know that if you’re prevented from accessing work and social opportunities on the grounds of prejudice, direct or indirect discrimination, then law will protect you.
The law is not there to label anybody but to protect those who need it. So, someone with dyslexia can be disabled too. Being disabled does not have to be a negative label: it’s acknowledging that someone’s prejudice (an employer’s or a public authority and so forth) is taking away your independence.
No-one would choose to label themselves as “disabled” in a derogatory way, but one might use the term as a political statement (as a Black person might say “I’m Black and I’m proud” or “Black is beautiful”). Whatever label you wish to use to represent yourself to others it’s a personal choice. But it helps to know that the moment a discriminatory practice or prejudice prevents you from participating equally in society because of an impairment, you can use the Equality Act to seek justice.
To find out more about your rights please visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s website .