What actually is a disability? How do we discern between something we are simply not good at and something which affects our everyday lives? Wanting to be the next winner of The X Factor but not being able to sing is not a disability, and quite likely it would offend someone who has a disability to hear it remarked as one.
The equality act defines a person with a disability as someone who “has a mental or physical impairment and that impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities”
This of course becomes more complicated and there are many questions that can then be raised including – does addiction count as a disability? The answer here is no, it is one of a list of seven conditions that in no way count as a disability, the other names on that list are – tendency to set fires, tendency to steal, tendency to physically or sexually abuse other persons, exhibitionism, voyeurism and quite oddly; hay fever. Even if these actions are carried out as a result of an underlying disability they are not protected by the disability act.
There are other things that are considered a disability as soon as they are diagnosed; these are HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis. So even if a person has no symptoms they are still considered to have a disability. Which is fair enough, I’m sure they have better things to worry about given one of those diagnoses.
Outside of these groups you have to prove that your disability fits the definition “has a mental or physical impairment and that impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities” and there are lists and guidance which illustrate something which does effect ability to carry out day to day abilities such as inability to walk, loss of bladder control at least once a month or difficulty asking specific questions to clarify instructions. There is also a list of things that would not be considered as affecting ability to carry out day to day activities including simple clumsiness, fear of significant highs and of course inability to sing in tune.
The equality act guidance gives some more information on these points and I would highly recommend giving it half hour of your time to help you understand what a disability is and isn’t. That way you will be better equipped to know how to support your staff when they need it and recognise when it comes down to skill not disability.