Definition of disability: vision impairment

The Equality Act 2010 specifically excludes from definition of disability impairment of vision which are correctable by spectacles, contact lenses or by other ways which may be prescribed. If an employee has poor vision which can be corrected by wearing glasses or contact lenses, this employee cannot argue the poor vision amounts to disability. In Mart v Assessment Services Inc the Employment Appeal Tribunal considered a whether side effects of wearing contact lenses may constitute a disability.

In this case Mrs Mart had double vision and was prescribed special contact lenses. The lens she had to wear corrected and improved her vision but ‘blacked out’ her eye, so that, it was argued, she suffered disfigurement and was therefore disabled.

Disfigurement can amount to disability, but the Tribunals did not accept that Mrs Mart was disabled. Correctable vision impairment is specifically excluded and the Equality Act 2010 makes no qualification that the side effects of the correction, the ‘cost of correction’, are to be taken into consideration.

However, this precedent cannot be relied on so that to exclude all impediments of corrective treatments. Each case will be fact sensitive and all individual circumstances will have to be taken into account.

Authors: Kiril Moskovchuk

Published: 31 May 2019


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