Stop assuming deaf and disabled people are ‘registered disabled’ – Kirsteen Allison


Portrait picture of journalist Kirsteen AllisonMany applications for jobs, university, colleges and even for government support, ask the applicant if they are ‘registered disabled’. Kirsteen Allison highlights why this is offensive and discriminatory.

There is no such thing as a register of disabled people. To ask someone if they are registered is discriminatory. You are assuming that the individual is claiming disability benefits or is perhaps a recipient of a ‘blue badge’. It does not make us less of a disabled person if we are not on a register. It does not make us less of a disabled person if we are able to hold down a job or a course of study.


The question is also dangerous. By asking that question, a deaf or disabled person might tick the ‘no’ box and miss out on the reasonable adjustments they would otherwise be entitled to in an interview, in the workplace or educational institution. They could miss out on medical help, help with housing, help at home, help to travel or any other support to help them in their day to day lives.

I had never claimed any benefits in my life, but this year I did, after someone told me that I was silly not to. I wondered if I should claim any benefits when I have always been able to work and study? This is exactly the guilt mentality that the terminology ‘registered disabled’ creates. Plenty of successful deaf and disabled people receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) which is now being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP). It means millions of deaf and disabled people could miss out on support that they are legally entitled to. I wonder if they will backdate 40 years?

Why is it still being asked then? Well, there used to be a system whereby you would ‘register’ as disabled. This ended in 1995 with the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act, now The Equality Act 2010. Many organisations, including local authorities, have not updated their policies and practices, despite having 25 years to do so! It is lazy and ignorant. It is shocking that no one is pulling them up on it, or checking that they are Equality Act compliant.

Until 1995, disabled people would be given a card which could be used to prove disability. Many organisations used the card when necessary to give concessions such as reduction in fishing licences, or other services. Large employers had a legal responsibility to employ disabled people as at least 3% of their workforce. Public services employed more than that to “set an example”.

What could be asked instead? Well, many deaf and disabled people do not identify as disabled at all. So however you ask the question, they may still choose not to respond and that is their right. Many organisations have found that providing a list of impairments for the applicant to select, rather than the black or white “are you disabled?”, has led to an increase in disabled applicants. Similarly, the organisation could simply ask “do you require any additional support?” This last question can be particularly useful if someone has non-disability related support needs such as care responsibilities.

The 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), came about as the country was starting to realise that not every disability is visible. By using the term “registered disabled”, organisations are still viewing disability as a physical disability. Even using the term “DDA” is outdated as it is now the Equality Act 2010. Referring to the old DDA, is another example of organisations having outdated perceptions and policies. These organisations are in danger of discriminating because they follow old practices.

So there are probably a huge proportion of deaf and disabled people who don’t tick the ‘registered disabled’ box, when in fact they should. But if there isn’t going to be an explanation of how you qualify in a tangible way for whatever you’re applying for, or why you need to provide this information, it’s as much use as a chocolate tea pot.


by Kirsteen Allison, Academy of Disabled Journalists

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