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Disability, sight impairment, and the law
  1. C Casserley
  1. Correspondence to: Catherine Casserley Disability Rights Commission, 3rd Floor, Fox Court, 14 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X, UK; catherine.casserley{at}

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It is important for those dealing with blind and partially sighted people to be aware of the rights conferred by the Disability Discrimination Act

“If he had the right pair of glasses then he’d be fine.” This may seem like a strange thing to say, but this is a direct quote from an employer who was attempting to deny liability for disability discrimination against a client of mine who was registered blind. There are many employers—as well as, I am afraid that I have to say, ophthalmologists—who are unaware not only of the nature of visual impairment but also of the scope of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the rights that it gives to blind and partially sighted people.

This commentary looks at those rights, at how ophthalmologists may be asked to play their part in a claim taken by a blind or partially sighted person, and at the duties that ophthalmologists themselves are subject to under the act.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was passed in 1995. Although not without its weaknesses, it was nevertheless a milestone for disabled people, who had campaigned long and hard for civil rights legislation to counter the discrimination that they experience. In order to be covered by the act, you must fall within the definition of disability—you must have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day to day activities.1 This definition is supplemented by regulations and guidance.

Although the definition is potentially very broad (in particular, because in determining what is a “substantial effect,” any treatment—except for the wearing of spectacles—is to be disregarded), defendants to claims (usually employers) have persistently denied that a person is disabled. This means that claimants have to go through the …

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