What is disability in relation to services?

The law which deals with disability in the provision of goods and services is the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018 (ESA).

The ESA defines disability in a particular way.  It applies to people with:

  • The total or partial absence of a person’s bodily or mental functions
  • Chronic disease or illness
  • The malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of a person’s body;
  • A condition that results in a person learning differently from a person without that condition
  • A condition that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgments, or which results in disturbed behaviour.
  • The ESA also covers people who have long-term disabling conditions which may get worse over time, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease, as well as people who used to have a disability but do not have it any more.

Example A cinema refuses entry to a person who had a mental health difficulty in the past.  When they had the mental health difficulty, the person’s behaviour sometimes disrupted other people’s enjoyment of the film, and they were sometimes asked to leave.  The cinema does not believe the customer that their mental health difficulty is over.  The cinema is discriminating against the customer in this case.

The law says that service providers must make reasonable accommodations so that people with disabilities can use services like everyone else.  They do not have to make these changes if it would cost more than a nominal cost, however.

Do you think that this kind of discrimination has happened to you, or is happening to you?