Disabled access and facilities in business premises

When a person is considered to have a disability


In general, a person is considered to have a disability for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 if they have a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial, long-term and adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The Disability Discrimination Act bans disability discrimination by service providers against service-users with disabilities. The law gives people with disabilities important rights on access to everyday services. It also protects the disabled from discrimination by employers against job seekers and employees with disabilities.

See how to improve access for disabled people.

Defining disability


Impairments include:

  • physical, eg mobility impairments
  • mental, eg learning disabilities and some mental illnesses if severe and long term
  • sensory, eg hearing impairments or visual impairments


Substantial means more than minor or trivial.

Long-term condition

Long-term means the impairment has lasted, or is likely to last:

  • for at least 12 months
  • for the rest of the life of that person


Normal day-to-day activities means activities carried out by most people on a regular and frequent basis.

What is not legally deemed a disability?

Conditions not considered to be a disability for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act include:

  • addiction to alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs - unless they result from drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor
  • seasonal allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
  • a tendency to start fires
  • a tendency to steal
  • a tendency to physically or sexually abuse other people
  • exhibitionism
  • voyeurism

Download the Equality Commission's short guide to disability discrimination law in Northern Ireland (PDF, 247K).