As I explained in my blogpost debunking myths about disabled people and taking legal action, there are effectively no regulatory or enforcement bodies who are permitted or able to enforce the Equality Act.
Depending on your individual circumstances the main options for taking an Equality Act 2010 legal claim in no particular order are:
1. Get a “no-win no-fee” type agreement
Ask if a law firm will provide legal support on some kind of no-win no-fee (sometimes called a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA)) type agreement.
While many firms have a webform or email, I have often found these often don’t get responded to (or responded to very slowly). I have found I usually need to phone or email a named person and explain I’m deaf so they’ll then look at my case by email.
2. Pay for legal advice upfront
If you have quite a lot of money and you’re likely to get a lot more back in damages (especially with employment cases) then paying upfront for legal advice might be a worthwhile investment. It is also the quickest.
3. Apply for Legal Aid
There is a Government service called Civil Legal Advice (CLA) that you have to go through to see if you are eligible for legal aid. Strict financial eligibility criteria apply, cases will be assessed for cost/benefit viability and it is ONLY accessible by phone.
I will be honest. Most applications for legal aid for “disability discrimination” cases fail, people like @AudreyLudwig of Suffolk Law Centre feel that more people need to try and challenge funding refusals and the general inaccessibility of the service.
I am not financially eligible for legal aid or I would be making a disability discrimination complaint against the government for the CLA being a phone service. My BSL is not fluent enough for the proffered video relay and I absolutely would not trust NGT (text relay) not to mangle something so important. I tried SMSing them to ask what I should do, I got no reply.
4. Take the legal case as a ‘Litigant in person’.
There is no legal reason you have to have a lawyer to take a disability discrimination case. If you take a case yourself, this is called being a “Litigant in Person” which is often shorted to LiP. As an LiP you still have to follow legal steps and processes properly. Some of the resources below are very useful.
You may also be able to get help from the Personal Support Unit (PSU) if your case has got to the court stage and you’re otherwise unsupported.
Useful resources for disability discrimination
The resources below may be useful to anyone making a disability discrimination complaint, or going legal, whether that is with professional support or as a Litigant in Person (LiP).
Disability Attitude Readjustment Toolkit (DART)
Doug Paulley’s fantastic “Disability Attitude Readjustment Tool” is basically a toolkit with lots of detailed information explaining the English civil legal system and the steps you are likely to need to take in a complaint.
Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website
EHRC Resource pages with links to guidance, codes of practice, and other information about Equality Act. It is good practice to send your respondent links to relevant Codes of Practice to give them a chance to understand your legal position and you often need to quote them in your legal documents.
Stammering Law Website
StammeringLaw is a comprehensive website about all things disability-discrimination related from clearly explained summaries of legal decisions to simple explanations of legal principles. While the focus is a stammering impairment, much of the information is also relevant to people with other impairments.
Equal Treatment Bench Book (ETBB)
While the Equal Treatment Bench Book 2018 is aimed at judges/magistrates and other court employees, it also contains a lot of useful information for claimants about the court process, has a whole chapter on Litigants in Person and covers other equality and diversity issues. There is also a Scottish Equal Treatment Bench Book covering Scottish law.
I recommend that anyone taking a disability discrimination case should draw legal advisers’ and courts’ attention to the ETBB for your country as it may give you all ideas of ways the system can be adjusted to meet your access needs.
ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)
ACAS has an overview of issues around disability discrimination in employment with links to further information.
Deaf Law UK
Deaf Law UK is a small voluntary organisation and website dedicated to making the law accessible for Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users with information in English and BSL.
Steve Wilkinson’s website
Steve has produced a PDF document giving an overview of the Equality Act and summarised some of the disability discrimination cases he has taken.