Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act passed into law in 2010, combining and replacing previous discrimination legislation, including the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995. The Equality Act applies to England, Wales and Scotland but not Northern Ireland.

The Equality Act protects people against unfair treatment (discrimination) on the grounds covered by the previous laws. The protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation


The Equality Act defines disability as:

'A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'.


Loss of hearing is a physical impairment and is covered by the Equality Act. Substantial means more than minor or trivial, so minor hearing loss may not fit the definition.

Importantly, any steps taken to treat or correct a person's deafness or hearing loss must be ignored for the purposes of the Equality Act. This means that if a person uses a hearing aid or similar device, what needs to be considered is the effect that would be experienced if the person were not using the hearing aid or device.

Who's covered

It would be reasonable to regard as having substantial adverse effect:

  • Difficulty hearing someone talking at a sound level which is normal for everyday conversations, and in a moderately noisy environment
  • Difficulty hearing and understanding another person speaking clearly over the voice telephone (where the telephone is not affected by bad reception)