You might not identify with the term 'disability'. But if you have a health condition that’s affecting your ability to live your life, it’s important you find out how to get support.

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Find out more about disability

In the UK, around ten million of us have a disability, often because of health conditions that aren’t obvious or visible. In this guide on disability, we give you information on the support available to help you manage your health and your life.

  • What's classed as a disability?

    The government defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’

    Some conditions, like multiple sclerosis or cancer, are automatically treated as disabilities under the Equality Act. Others, like Crohn’s disease, autism or depression, might be officially recognised as a disability depending on how much they affect your daily life. 

    You might have been born with your condition or developed it. It could be something you’ll have for the rest of your life, or something you hope to overcome. Maybe you’ve always experienced it but only recently got a formal diagnosis. 

    You may not think of yourself as ‘disabled’, but if you’re considering whether the government definition of disability applies to you, think about how your condition affects your day-to-day life. If it makes it more difficult for you to carry out daily tasks then it’s likely to be covered.

  • Adjusting to having a disability

    If you recently developed or acquired your condition, rather than being born with it, you may be going through a period of adjustment. Coping with new symptoms or a new diagnosis can be difficult. And if an injury caused your condition, you might find it especially hard to deal with the sudden change. 

    It’s common to grieve for your previous life and your ability to engage in certain activities. And, if your condition is severe, you may be mourning the loss of your independence, your ability to work, or even your previous sense of self. You might be feeling stressed or anxious, or be worrying about how you’ll cope in the future. Or you might be navigating changing roles and relationships, and the stress that this can bring.

    These feelings are normal, and it’s likely that with time and the right support you’ll be able to adjust to your circumstances.

  • What are my rights if I have a disability?

    It can be tricky to figure out what exactly you’re entitled to, as this will likely depend on the severity of your condition and your individual circumstances. But you may be legally entitled to extra protection and support if your condition affects your ability to carry out daily tasks. 

    Protection from discrimination

    It’s against the law for anyone to discriminate against you because of your disability at work, when they’re providing you with goods, facilities and services, when you’re renting or buying a home, or when you’re in education. This includes direct and indirect discrimination.

    Direct discrimination
    Such as treating you not as well as other people because of your disability.

    Indirect discrimination 
    For example, if there’s a rule, policy or practice which seems to apply equally to everyone, but which actually puts you at an unfair disadvantage because of your condition.

    Help with care 

    If you need care and support to help you carry out daily activities, like washing and dressing, your local authority has a legal duty to carry out an assessment to find out what help you need. Even if you’re currently getting this help from a family member or from your partner, it’s worth getting a needs assessment.

    This will help ensure that the person who’s currently caring for you can also get support. Depending on your needs and your income, you may be eligible for free home care and support. If not, you’re still entitled to receive care services, but you’ll be expected to pay for or make a contribution towards them. 

    Support at work

    If you’re in work and your condition is affecting your ability to carry out your role, your employer must make reasonable adjustments to allow you to continue to work. These could include things like those listed below.

    • Making physical adjustments to your workspace.
    • Giving you special equipment to help you do your job.
    • Transferring you to a different role.
    • Allowing you to work flexibly, work from home, or giving you extra time off.

    When your employer is deciding whether an adjustment is ‘reasonable’ they can take into account several things, like the cost of making it and the size of the organisation. Your employer can also take into account your skills and experience, as well as the length of time you’ve worked there.

  • Help for disabled parents

    Parenting can be extra challenging if your condition means you find everyday tasks like lifting your child difficult.

    If you have a disability and you need help to carry out your parenting role, your local authority has a duty to help you. You may have already had a needs assessment from your local authority, but you can apply for one that assesses your needs specifically as a parent. If you can, do this before your child is born, so you have support in place when your baby arrives.

  • Help if you have a disabled family member

    If you’re responsible for providing or arranging care for someone whose condition means they can’t care for themselves, you’re a carer.  

    Being a carer can include anything from emotional support to extensive practical help to enable someone to live their daily life. Each caring situation is unique. Caring can be rewarding, but it’s can also be extremely challenging and feel overwhelming at times. As a carer you have your own rights and entitlements. Knowing these can help you get the support you need.

  • Financial support for disability

    If your condition means you can’t work, that you have to work fewer hours, or you need help on a daily basis, there are options you can explore.

    You may be entitled to disability-related financial support like benefits, tax credits, payments, grants or concessions. Many of us feel uncomfortable about claiming benefits, but they’re part of a support system that’s there to help us when we need it. You might also be able to get practical support to change your career, or get ill-health benefits through your workplace pension. And, there are grants from charities for people with disabilities, which may be able to help you with a one-off cash payment.  

Next steps

Finding out how to access your rights and what support is available when you have a disability can make a big difference to your daily life.