This page provides a brief summary, links to information and the full judgments for some binding authorities which can be useful in Equality Act 2010.
Northern Irish users will need to double check the validity of cases as devolved amendments to the DDA may have introduced changes. Cases are listed in a semi random order.
Judgments hosted at BAILII (the British and Irish Legal Information Institute) have a link on each page to an RTF (rich Text Format) version of the judgment for printing. We note that BAILII relies entirely on donations to run their excellent service, as they are not statutorily funded. Reasonable Access would like to thank Allen Tyrer, who maintains the excellent Stammering Law website, which is an excellent and easily readable resource about disability discrimination in the UK.
Where possible we will link to Microsoft Word or HTML versions of a judgment for accessibility reasons.
We should be clear that in some of these cases the disabled person is ‘not very pleasant’. We list those cases for their value as legal authorities as even unpleasant people deserve to have access to fair and lawful engagements with the law.
Purves v Joydisc Ltd (2003)
Purves is important for showing the level at which financial compensation should be set for “injury to feelings” one of the main remedies available for disability discrimination court claims.
In 2003 Purves says:” I would therefore hold that the sum of £750 is the least that may nowadays be awarded for the very slightest injury to feelings, deserving of damages, which is caused by discrimination on the ground of disability.“. You can calculate how much that 2003 era £750 has changed in value to within a month by using the this inflation calculator.
Equal Treatment Bench Book Guidance cases requiring it be followed
R. (on the application of King) v Isleworth Crown Court (2001)
Judges and courts must follow the advice in the Equal Treatment Bench Book (ETBB) to ensure that litigants are given fair access to justice (see paragraph 43 of the judgment).
Crown Prosecution Service v Fraser (2014)
Another authority covering the Equal Treatment Bench Book, this time in the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of a man with a mental illness that caused him to behave bizarrely during the legal process. Again it is stressed that in the interests of justice and fair hearings, judges should follow guidance in the Equal Treatment Bench Book and make adjustments to hearing processes while also balancing the rights of the other parties in the case.
Roads v Central Trains (2004)
Roads is one of the most important authorities for disability discrimination cases in goods and services. It asserts that access for disabled people should be as close as possible to that for non-disabled people. It also clarifies that the reasonable adjustments duty is anticipatory and applies to classes of disabled people, and that being an activist (as Mr Roads was) does not make a legal claim less valid.
Royal Bank of Scotland v Allen (2009)
Allen is often cited in disability discrimination cases as it supports the idea that access for disabled people should be provided as similarly as possible to that for non-disabled people. Especially useful for showing that shops offering services in the street for people who cannot get physical access to a shop is not acceptable. Allen is also interesting as it’s one of the few cases where a court has made an injunction – in this case for a lift to be installed into a building.
Ross v Ryanair (2004)
Bob Ross had a mobility impairment and usually walked with crutches or sticks. He could not manage the amount of standing and walking involved with airports. Ryanair the airline required passengers who did not have their own wheelchairs to pay for their own wheelchair hire and a “pusher” from the airport’s assistance service. The County Court found Ryanair had discriminated against Ross by failing to adjust for a physical feature (large airport building) by provision of a suitable auxiliary aid (wheelchair and pusher). The Appeal Court hearing mostly upheld the County Court findings but said the liability was shared between airline (Ryanair) and airport (Stansted airport authority).
Ryanair’s two main arguments were that Ross could afford the wheelchair hire and pusher and that they weren’t giving him less favourable treatment because they funded any assistance needed for “more severely disabled passengers” who had their own wheelchairs. The Roads judgment came out as this case was going on, and was cited in the Ross judgment that the reasonable adjustment duty is owed to a class of disabled people so passing on a charge and treating people within that class differently was not acceptable.
Finnegan v Northumbria Police (2013, but covered DDA/EqA crossover)
While Finnegan lost the specifics of his case, the Appeal Court ruling is important for clarifying the duty to make reasonable adjustments to disabled people as a “class” supporting the position of Roads. Finnegan was decided under both the Disability Discrimination Acts and Equality Act 2010 as the incidents happened before and after the changeover in England, Scotland and Wales – and is therefore potentially applicable in Northern Ireland.
Finnegan also goes into detail about the process of organisations making reasonable adjustments. Once a Claimant has identified a specific adjustment, the burden of proof shifts to the Defendant to prove it was not reasonable if they did not provide it (this also refers to Latif).
Project Management Institute v Latif (2007)
Latif is important for three main reasons:
1) if a service provider is based outside of the UK but provides services to UK users/consumers then the Disability Discrimination and Equality Acts may apply.
2) Secondly it clarifies that there is no requirement for the disabled person to have suggested a reasonable adjustment for that adjustment to have been considered. It is the service provider’s responsibility to consider what adjustments will reduce ‘substantial disadvantage’.
3) Thirdly if the Claimant has identified an adjustment which is then not considered or provided, the burden of proof shifts to the Defendant to demonstrate whether the adjustment was reasonable or not (see paragraph 53 of the judgment).
SCA Packaging v Boyle (2009)
Boyle is important for deciding that ‘likelihood‘ of the effects of an impairment becoming ‘substantially disadvantageous’ (to meet the legal definition of being a disability) without treatment or recurring is “could well be likely and does not have to be over a 50% chance.
Boyle is especially useful for classifying people as disabled if they have impairments that commonly recur or flare up such as depression and anxiety. Being legally disabled entitles people to reasonable adjustments to reduce substantial disadvantages they experience.
Archibald v Fife Council (2004)
The judgment in Archibald is important because it says that to comply with the Equality and Disability Discrimination Acts that it might be necessary to give a disabled person preferential treatment over a non disabled person.
Rowley, R (On the Application Of) v Minister for the Cabinet Office  EWHC 2108 (Admin)
The UK deaf community created a campaign with hashtag #WhereIsTheInterpreter covering several county court and potential judicial review cases about the lack or poor provision of BSL/English interpreting of Westminster briefings about the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
In 2021, there was a High Court hearing and judgment on a judicial review hearing for deaf BSL signer Katherine (Katie) Rowley as claimant challenging the lack of BSL/English interpreters at two Covid-19 data briefings and the Cabinet Office’s insistence on using in-vision (interpreter in a box on the screen) which was only available on an obscure BBC news channel. In contrast Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other countries around the world have had on-platform interpreters stood behind the speaker.
Rowley is too complex for us to summarise entirely, but it explores deaf people’s need for prompt communication and information in BSL, issues of historical and recent language and education deprivation of deaf people in the UK, responsibilities of a service provider to ensure adjustments are provided, anticipatory adjustments and what is still expected during emergency situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
BSL and other Rowley briefing note formats
McNutt v Transport for London (2019)
The judgment in McNutt is important because it clarifies when a black taxi or PHV (private hire vehicle – aka minicab) driver is permitted to start their meter and that if the customer refuses to board or continue a journey because of a prematurely started meter that this is reasonable.
FirstGroup plc v Paulley (2017)
While transport vehicles are partly exempt from the Equality and Disability Discrimination Acts, the policies and practices that transport companies have are still covered. The issue in Paulley was how much effort a bus driver has to make to ask someone occupying the only wheelchair to move if they can sit elsewhere or fold a buggy.
Paulley went all the way to the Supreme Court which decided the driver had to try asking the passenger(s) in the wheelchair space to move, consider making announcements refusing to drive until a passenger(s) moved, but could not be required to compel the passenger to move if they continued to refuse. A passenger who declares themselves disabled should also not be expected to move.
Risby v London Borough of Waltham Forest (2016)
Risby shows that something arising from disability can be a lot looser than previously recognised. The Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed Risby’s appeal against unfair dismissal because his employer changed a training venue to one which was not wheelchair accessible, therefore Risby could not access it. If that had not happened, Risby would not have got angry and behaved inappropriately (aggressively and used racial slurs). The Employment Tribunal did not properly consider Section 15, ‘Discrimination Arising from Disability’ and follow the correct legal tests.
The case was sent back back to an Employment Tribunal to consider the issue of ‘discrimination arising from’ and whether the ‘dismissal was a proportionate means to a legitimate aim’. There appears to be no outcome published for that. Risby’s dismissal could still have been justified if the employer could show that while Risby’s behaviour arose from disability, dismissing him was a proportionate means to a legitimate aim of enforcing equality policies and ensuring Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff felt safe in the workplace environment.
Blackwood v Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (2016)
The Court of Appeal ruling in Blackwood effectively amends Section 56(6) of the Equality Act so that students on work placements can enforce their Equality Act rights.
- If the issue is with how the university arranges a placement, then the claim is taken to the County Court under ‘Part 6, Chapter 2, Further and Higher Education’.
- If the issue is how the student is treated on placement, then the claim is taken to the Employment Tribunal under ‘Part 5 Employment’ provisions.
Unfortunately the Employment Tribunal / County Court split means that if the student is unsure which entity is responsible, or has complaint against both their education provider and the placement provider, they would have to issue two sets of separate proceedings.