Disability: the final frontier?

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    It is definitely still much more accepted to discriminate against people with disabilities than against any other group. No-one would feel comfortable admitting to a colleague that a candidate's race or gender had a part to play in their recruitment or promotion decisions, but disability is a different matter. There is a feeling that the DDA is an unreasonable piece of legislation, and that compliance with it is a matter of jumping through hoops rather than adhering to the spirit of equality for people with disabilities. A lot of partners and HR people seem to think that it is unreasonable to be expected to treat people with disabilities equally because it doesn't make "business sense". I think that they are also much less afraid of being found publically to have discriminated in this way than on racial or sexual grounds because (1) there is some public sympathy with the view that people with disabilities are not as "good" as people without disabilities, and that it is simply political correctness that requires us to offer them jobs; (2) sexual discrimination will "speak" to far more potential litigants than disability claims; and (3) clients are much more aware of race and gender discrimination than disability discrimination - if a tribunal found that your firm had blocked promotion for an able black candidate on the grounds of his race, that firm's place on the panels of the big banks and corporates could be under review, but if they blocked promotion to someone who had a serious long term illness it would certainly be more understood.

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