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Your rights

Photo: Understanding your rights and what you're entitled to isn't always easy.

Everyone has the right to be treated fairly. As a deaf young person you have legal rights to protect you, make sure that you’re treated fairly and can access services, like education. 

Knowing your rights can help make sure you get the support you are entitled to at school, college and university, in training or at work, at home and when you’re out and about.

Sometimes just showing that you’re aware of your legal rights can mean you're taken more seriously. Often, people are not even aware that they are doing anything wrong - you can help to educate them. 

Understanding your legal rights isn’t always straight forward, but we’re here to help. If you’d like to find out more about your rights please see the information below and contact our Helpline with any questions or for further support. 

Discrimination is where a person, organisation or service treats you differently, unfairly or worse because of any of the following:

  • your age
  • gender
  • gender identity
  • race
  • religion
  • sexuality
  • you have children or are pregnant
  • you’re married or have a civil partnership
  • you have a disability

Discrimination could include:

  • being turned down for a job
  • being excluded from a sports team
  • not getting the support you need to access your course
  • being bullied.

Discrimination is against the law. Sometimes people don’t realise they are discriminating because they may lack awareness, but it's still wrong. Often, once people understand what they're supposed to be doing and why, they're happy to make the required reasonable adjustments. 

The Equality Act 2010 is an important law that protects disabled people in England, Scotland and Wales from being discriminated against.

The Act defines disability as 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term (lasting, or likely to last, for at least 12 months) adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities.' This means that under the Equality Act 2010 deafness is a disability.

In Northern Ireland the Disability Discrimination Act provides similar rights to deaf people as the Equality Act 2010.

Both the Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act set out rules to make sure everyone is treated fairly and no one is disadvantaged. They apply to all organisations and people including schools, colleges, universities, local authorities, youth activity clubs, all NHS providers, and government.

These laws protect you in two main ways:

  • They entitle you to request reasonable adjustments are made so you are not at a disadvantage to anyone else. 
  • All public bodies must plan ahead and think about how they can remove any barriers that might disadvantage deaf people.

The Equality Act 2010 says there's a duty to make reasonable adjustments if you're placed at substantial disadvantage because of your disability compared with people who don’t share your disability.

There are three ways to make a reasonable adjustment:

  1. Change the ways things are done – this could include changing a policy or making an exception.
  2. Change a physical feature of a building or premises – for example having carpets instead of hard floors to improve acoustics and reduce background noise.
  3. Provide aids or services – this might include technology, such as radio aids, streamers and loop systems. Services could include providing a BSL interpreter, note taker or other support.

Adjustments only need to be made if it is reasonable to do so. What is reasonable will depend on the situation.

Factors to consider whether an adjustment is reasonable include:

  • the difference it would make to you and other deaf people
  • how much it would cost to make the adjustment
  • the size of the organisation
  • how much funding the provider has to make the adjustment.

What might be reasonable for one organisation may not be reasonable for another. The Equality and Advisory Support Service (Scotland, England and Wales) or Equality Commission Northern Ireland can provide further guidance on what is and isn’t reasonable for different organisations.

You and your family should never be asked to cover the cost of a reasonable adjustment.

Both the Equality Act 2010 (Scotland, England and Wales) and the Disability Discrimination Act (Northern Ireland) state that all public bodies must plan ahead and think about how they can remove any barriers that might disadvantage deaf people. This includes anticipating potential costs of reasonable adjustments.

In some cases it isn’t possible for an organisation to pay for the costs of an adjustment because it isn’t reasonable for them. The Equality and Advisory Support Service (Scotland, England and Wales) or Equality Commission Northern Ireland can provide further guidance on what is and isn’t reasonable for different organisations.

If an adjustment is too expensive there may be other ways to meet the cost. For a school or college the local authority may need cover the cost. At university or other higher education provider funding can be available through Disabled Students' Allowances. At work this may be met through Access to Work.

Discrimination can happen in lots of different ways. Sometimes it can be difficult to describe your experience. Remember, you have the right to be treated fairly.

There are things you can do and support is available if you think this is happening or had happened to you:

  1. Tell someone what’s happening: this could be someone who could help to make changes like a manager or tutor. If you aren’t sure about raising it higher you could talk to a friend or family member for support first.
  2. Keep telling people: you may have to tell someone more than once or tell someone else if you feel it isn’t being taken seriously.
  3. Keep a record: keep messages, photos or a diary of what is happening. Ask the person or organisation to put decisions in writing, including their reasons. This can all be used as evidence and can help when you are talking to someone.
  4. Find out the policies and guidance: all organisations and services have a responsibility to protect you from discrimination and should have a discrimination policy. This should include guidance on how to report problems.
  5. Get advice: you can always contact our Helpline for advice about challenging discrimination.

Remember, if you ever feel threatened or in danger you can contact the police.

Call 999 in an emergency or 101 at other times. If you use British Sign Language, you can use the 999BSL relay service. If you don’t use the phone for calls you can register for emergencySMS.

Wherever you are in the UK you can contact our Helpline.

In Scotland, England and Wales you can also contact Equality and Advisory Support Service.

If you're based in Northern Ireland you can contact the Equality Commission Northern Ireland.