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Dyslexic Policeman is disabled

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The EAT has held that a senior policeman who was diagnosed with minor dyslexia was disabled within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

After over 15 years in the police force, and promotion to the rank of Chief Inspector, the Claimant discovered he was dyslexic. He had not previously had difficulties with report writing, financial literacy or any of the other aspects in his complex and demanding job. However, medical evidence suggested that he ought to be given 25% extra time in his examinations for promotion to the rank of Superintendent as a result of his (newly diagnosed) dyslexia.

The tribunal reminded itself that a diagnosis was not a disability, and that the important thing to look at was what the Claimant could do, rather than what he could not do. They concluded that the dyslexia had only a minor/trivial impact upon the Claimant's day-to-day activities, and that he was therefore not disabled.

The EAT overturned this finding and substituted a finding of disability. It stated that a tribunal should not compare the performance of the employee with the average person in the population (as this tribunal had done). Rather, it is the comparison between what the individual can do and would be able to do without the impairment which is important in determining whether someone is disabled (para 39). The EAT concluded it was self-evidenct that a person who needed 25% longer to complete an examination because of his dyslexia was at a substantial disadvantage to the position if he did not have dyslexia, and he was therefore disabled. The EAT added that any finding to the contrary would undermine the whole purpose of the DDA (para. 70).

Patterson v Commisioner of Police for the Metropolis