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Health and Wellbeing
A Health and Well-being Wales Partner

Disabled young people are individuals, with very different opinions, talents and aspirations.

Many pursue higher education and careers, while others get involved in disability rights and charitable work. Most want to live independently – with support when they need it – and to participate fully in life.

What is different for disabled young people are the additional hurdles they must overcome if they wish to fully participate and live life on their own terms – in education, employment, transporthousingsport and social activities.

Many – but not all – disabled young people have additional learning needs, which means they may need extra support to learn at school, college or university.

The social model of disability

The social model of disability believes people are disabled by society rather than what they can or can’t do. It is not the person’s disability or body that is the problem, but the way other people – and institutions in general – respond to it.

The social model of disability focuses on what a disabled young person can do when physical and other barriers are removed, e.g. there are positive attitudes towards disability, public spaces and transport are accessible and assistive technology is readily available.  

For example, a young wheelchair user would only have difficulty participating in a club or social activity if the chosen venue was inaccessible, i.e. not fitted with a ramp, sliding doors or lift.

What the law says

Under the Equality Act 2010, a disabled child or young person has a substantial or long-term physical or mental impairment.

The Act made it illegal to discriminate against someone because:

  • they are a disabled person
  • someone else thinks they have a disability
  • they are connected to – or caring for – someone with a disability

It is not unlawful discrimination to treat a disabled person more favourably than a non-disabled person, e.g. to allow a disabled child to miss school assembly or a disabled student to have a support worker.

Indirect discrimination

The 2010 Act extended previous anti-discrimination legislation by providing protection against indirect discrimination.

Examples of indirect discrimination include:

Negative attitudes

  • making assumptions about what a young disabled person can or can’t do based on preconceived notions of disability
  • assuming a disabled person will be off sick more often
  • failing to differentiate between different types of disability

Inaccessible buildings and environments

  • narrow doorways and gates
  • the absence of ramps or lifts
  • lack of disabled parking places
  • cluttered offices, one-level desks
  • lighting problems, e.g. low-level or fluorescent lighting

Institutional systems

  • transport problems
  • inflexible work patterns or shifts
  • inaccessible websites, e.g. no alternative text to describe images

Children’s Rights

Disabled young people have the same rights as all children and in Wales these are enshrined in law. This includes the right to an advocate to help them speak out or make a complaint.

Carers’ Rights

If you are looking after a disabled child you are a carer. This gives you additional legal rights and entitlements which will help you get the support you need.

More information

Disability Wales champions the rights of all disabled people and tackles the big challenges they often face. 

Know Your Rights from Disability Wales – outlines the laws protecting disabled people’s rights. 

The Equality Act, Making Equality Real is an easy read guide to equalities legislation.

Children in Wales encourages disabled children and young people to participate, and achieve whatever they want. The charity also campaigns to ensure their rights and needs are met.  

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has guidelines for disabled people.

Last updated: 23/02/2023