An audience at a performance

A note on the Equality Act (2010)

NB: this summary does not take the place of a thorough training in, and understanding of, the Equality Act across your organisation.

As a provider of goods, facilities and services, you have duties under the Equality Act (2010) and it may well be that programming assisted performances could be seen as a means by which you are meeting those duties. Done well, programming assisted performances will take you beyond compliance into good practice and you will accrue some or all of the other benefits mentioned elsewhere in this resource.

Disability is one of a number of protected characteristics within the Equality Act, and it is illegal to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of any of those characteristics (though note that the details of what counts as discrimination and how the protection works vary between characteristics).

A person is protected under the disability provisions of the Act if they have – or have had – a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to perform ‘normal day-to-day activities’. There are other specific provisions protecting, for example, people with recurring conditions, people with a mental health issue and people with a ‘severe disfigurement’.

There are a number of forms of discrimination:

  • Direct
  • Indirect
  • Arising from Disability
  • Combined
  • By association
  • By perception
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

Direct discrimination, harassment and the failure to make reasonable adjustment are never justifiable. Other forms of discrimination may be justifiable if there is an objective defence, ie if the action is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate end’.

Whether an adjustment is reasonable or not will depend on considerations such as its effectiveness, its practicality for the organisation concerned, the cost, the resources of the organisation concerned and the availability of financial support.

Duties under the goods, facilities and services provisions are anticipatory.

In April 2011, the Single Equality Duty became law and, if your organisation is in receipt of public money, you may well be required to fulfill the general duties. In fact, the duties are a very useful tool to support a cross-organisational approach to inclusion.

As the Disability Rights Commission said of the original Disability Equality Duty (now superceded by the Single Equality Duty):

“[t]his means including disabled people and disability equality into everything from the outset, rather than focusing on individualised responses to specific disabled people.”

Under the general duty, organisations must have due regard to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act;
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not;
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not;

and this involves:

  • removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics;
  • taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people;
  • encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.


Now go to: A note on the social model of disability