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The disability equality duty

Councils and other public authorities have a duty to promote equal opportunities for disabled people and must consider the needs of disabled people in all their services and functions. This is called 'the disability equality duty'.

What is the disability equality duty?

The disability equality duty is about more than just installing ramps and handrails: it's about ensuring that disabled people have the same options and chances in life as non-disabled people and can access fully and equally the services most non-disabled people take for granted, such as education, health care, leisure facilities and housing.

What does this mean?

This means that in all its decisions and activities councils must proactively seek to:

  • advance equal opportunities for disabled people, ensuring they have the same level of choice as non-disabled people
  • eliminate discrimination
  • tackle harassment of disabled people
  • promote positive attitudes towards disabled people
  • encourage disabled people to take an active part in public life
  • take steps to take into account the different kinds of disabilities people have, even when that involves treating disabled people more favourably than non-disabled people - this is because it isn't always possible to provide disabled people with the same opportunities as non-disabled people simply by treating them in the same way.

To show how they mean to do this councils and other public bodies, must involve disabled people in developing a Disability Equality Scheme. You should be able to find a copy of this on your local council's website. This should also be available on request in alternative formats, such as Braille or large print.

What does the disability equality duty mean for housing services?

The disability equality duty means that councils and housing associations must make a special effort to ensure that disabled people can make full use of their services and have as much choice available as non-disabled people.

For example, they could:

  • provide written materials and forms in alternative formats, such as Braille, large print, audio cassette or Easy Read
  • offer British Sign Language interpretation at interviews
  • involve disabled people in setting housing application policies
  • keep lists of adapted council and private rental properties in their area, to help disabled people find a home
  • respond promptly to tenants' requests for adaptations to their homes
  • ban disability harassment in all their policies, and ensure that any complaints about disability harassment (for example, harassment from private landlords or other tenants) are taken seriously and acted upon
  • ensure that disabled people are represented in tenants' associations and other service user groups
  • ensure that disabled people are as satisfied with their services and have as much choice available to them as non-disabled people.

Who else has these duties?

All public authorities have these duties. These include:

  • your local council
  • housing associations
  • the Scottish Government
  • the police
  • the NHS
  • education authorities, universities and colleges
  • the Scottish Legal Aid Board
  • some courts and tribunals.

What if the council or another public authority doesn't meet the equality duty?

If you feel that your council or any other public authority is not complying with the equality duty and that you're not able to access or get involved with their services, you can make an official complaint. If this doesn't help, contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). They may be able to help you challenge the council or other public authority and force them to comply with the disability equality duty.

You also have the option of taking the issue to the Court of Session - this process is known as judicial review. This is complicated and you must get specialist legal advice if you're thinking about going down this route.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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