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Vicary v British Telecommunications plc

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Last updated 1999.

Employment Appeal Tribunal, 1999. Full judgment: bailii.org.

A woman had a disability relating to the use of her right arm and hand, and suffered pain doing various tasks. The employment tribunal held that she did not have a disability as it did not have a “substantial” effect.

For example, the employment tribunal had said that her lack of ability to cut up meat or roast potatoes could not “as an isolated example” make the impairment substantial. This seemed to the EAT to show a misunderstanding of the task in hand. It was clear that an ability to prepare vegetables, cut up meat and carry a meal on a tray would all be regarded as examples of normal day-to-day activities. An inability to carry out those functions would, in the EAT’s view, obviously be regarded as a substantial impairment of an ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The employment tribunal had referred to the things that she was able to do, such as “handle a knife and fork at the same time, and… press the buttons on keyboards or keypads, albeit more slowly than she was able to formerly.”.The EAT said this was not the right focus of attention.

Also it would be a substantial impairment of ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities if Mrs Vicary could not carry washing or unload a shopping trolley other than in small quantities, or use a hand-held bag. The fact that a person can mitigate the effects of their disability (eg by using a shoulder bag or unloading in small quantities) does not mean that they are not disabled.

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