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RE: Inability to type ruled not a disability

From: Martin Sloan <martin.sloan@orange.net>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 00:42:15 +0100
Message-ID: <01C12911.05E410E0.martin.sloan@orange.net>
To: "'Hewitt, Denise'" <Denise.Hewitt@idea.com>, "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, "sec508@trace.wisc.edu" <sec508@trace.wisc.edu>
Having read Yahoo!'s articlet and the original case report, I thought I'd 
add a UK perspective to this debate.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (the relevant UK piece of 
legislation), disability is defined as where a person has a:
'physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term 
adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities' 

This seems to roughly mirror the ADA. However, the DDA's definition is 
further qualified in Schedule 1 of the Act which sets out 'normal 
day-to-day activities' with a list of classes, one of which must be 
affected for a disability to be present.

The second category of these is that of 'manual dexterity' which, as my 
dictionary tells me, is 'skill in using one's hands'. As such, I'd have 
thought it beyond doubt that the inability to use a keyboard as a result of 
RSI would be considered a disability. This is surely especially so given, 
as Judge Marsha Berzon said in her dissent, that the use of computers and 
being able to type are now *essential* skills in the modern workplace.

The case makes reference to the plaintiff being able to carry out a wide 
range of tasks, such as cooking or shopping etc ant therefore the alleged 
disability was not 'substantial' as she could still do lots of things. 
However, had the case been in the UK, the Code of Practice, which 
accompanies the Act, defines substantial as being 'more than minor or 
trvial', rather than affecting a large number of manual tasks as suggested 
in the Appeal court's reading (perhaps 'quality' versus 'quantity'). 
Following this, I would suggest that not being able to use a keyboard, and 
hence work, would be considered to be more than just a minor or trivial 
impairment and thus a disability. Further, there is nothing in the Code of 
Practice to suggest that a different view would be taken.

I don't know how much guidance the ADA gives in defining a disability, 
however, it would seem that in this respect at least the DDA and its 
companion Code are more helpful.

University of Glasgow
Glasgow Graduate School of Law
Received on Sunday, 19 August 2001 19:45:50 UTC

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