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The definition of ‘disability’ has been the subject of much legal debate ever since the Equality Act 2010 came into force. However, an Employment Tribunal (ET) has shed some much-needed light on the issue in a case concerning a visually impaired office worker.
The woman had worn spectacles since childhood and her eyesight had deteriorated with age. She had suffered from a macular hole and cataracts before starting her employment with a social housing provider, but those conditions had been corrected by surgery and she had described her vision as massively improved.
Her job required her to perform detailed work on a computer for long periods. Hours spent looking at the screen gave her headaches and the glare led to eyestrain. She also had to lean forward from her chair to see words on the screen. She launched proceedings before the ET, claiming that her employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments to her computer to accommodate her visual disability.
In ruling on her claim, the ET noted that she had self-treated her headaches and eyestrain with painkillers and had not consulted her GP or an optician about them. Although her visual problems were not trivial and were a physical impairment, they were no more than minor. Her need to lean forward to view her computer screen also did not amount to a substantial adverse effect on her normal day-to-day activities. The ET’s decision that she was not disabled within the meaning of the Act was fatal to her claim.