Colour blindness deemed not to be disability at tribunal

A claimant’s red-green colour blindness could not be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, an employment tribunal has found. We round up recent tribunal decisions.

Claimant’s colour blindness not a disability, decides tribunal

In Bessell v Chief Constable of Dorset Police, the employment tribunal held that a claimant’s red-green colour blindness is not a disability.

Impact of colour blindness on watching sport: tribunal’s view

“Watching football or rugby did not generally give rise to difficulty. He had difficulty identifying the brown and green balls in snooker unless they were on their spots but where they came into play, that would generally be made clear by commentary. Commentary and captioning would also assist with his difficulty sometimes distinguishing between the strips worn by Tour de France cyclists.”

Mr Bessell has red-green colour blindness. The combination of grey and pink also causes him difficulty. He brought a disability discrimination claim, which could not proceed unless he could show that his impairment met the definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

This issue turned on whether or not his condition has a “substantial and long term adverse effect on [his] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

Mr Bessell argued that his condition affects the normal day-to-day activities of cooking, reading/interpreting documents/text and watching sport. He said that he cannot tell by the colour whether or not meat or fish products are fresh. Forms with grey and pink sections and the colours on subway maps cause him some difficulty.

He cannot distinguish between the brown and green balls in snooker, unless they are on their spots. The employment tribunal pointed out that coping strategies mean that his colour blindness does not substantially affect these activities. He can use smell and texture to determine the freshness of food.

Did you know?

Men are much more likely to be colour blind than women. Up to 8% percent of men with Northern European ancestry have the common form of red-green colour blindness. However, only 0.5% of women are thought to be affected.

Source: National Eye Institute

There is “no reason to believe that Mr Bessell would take appreciably longer to get the hang of forms or maps than most people”. Commentary and captioning are normally available when watching sport.

The employment tribunal therefore concluded that Mr Bessell’s colour blindness does not have a “substantial and long term adverse effect on [his] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

It is not a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and his disability discrimination claim could not proceed. Mr Bessell’s separate indirect sex discrimination claim was allowed to proceed.

Read more details of the case and the full judgment…

Other tribunal decisions available online

Uncles v National Health Service Commissioning Board and others On 13 October 2017, an employment tribunal decided that the claimant’s views, which were described as “English nationalism”, are not a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.

King v Tesco Stores plc On 29 September 2017, an employment tribunal awarded £2,664 to a claimant whose flexible working request was mishandled. The tribunal also ordered that the claimant’s flexible working request be reconsidered.

Redsell v Ebbsfleet Printing Solutions Ltd On 24 August 2017, an employment tribunal refused to award any compensation to a claimant who was dismissed on the spot after using a judo move to lift and throw the colleague. While the employer admitted that the dismissal was procedurally unfair, the tribunal accepted that the claimant was entirely to blame for his dismissal.

Sisk v Department for Work and Pensions On 10 April 2017, an employment tribunal recommended that, within 12 months of its judgment upholding a claim for pregnancy and maternity leave discrimination, the respondent provide training for 580 managers on maternity leave rights.

Stephen Simpson

About Stephen Simpson

Stephen Simpson is a principal employment law editor at XpertHR. His areas of responsibility include the policies and documents and law reports. After obtaining a law degree and training to be a solicitor, he moved into publishing, initially with Butterworths. He joined XpertHR in its early days in 2001.

7 Responses to Colour blindness deemed not to be disability at tribunal

  1. Avatar
    Gary 1 Dec 2018 at 2:45 am #

    A person who is colourblind could not be a policeman as they would be unable to identify the colour of cars or the colour of the cloths a suspect was wearing or ven their hair and eye colour.
    A colourbind person cannot be a pilot because he cannot distinguish the colours on the instrumntation,
    Last time I went to a football match I did not se ny Commentary or captions.
    The fact that there may be
    So ther are coping strategies? Well people in wheel chairs coping strategies. There are special places for them to park, cash machines have been lowered, ramps have been installed i shops for access and there are disabled toilets, spaces on buses. Does this mean if you are in a wheel chair you are not disabled

  2. Avatar
    Joseph Domican 26 Jun 2019 at 5:29 pm #

    I am colour blind and I have always been surprised by the reaction to the “disability” compared to the reaction to other physical issues that people might have. I wanted to join the police and could not, I wanted to gain my sailing certificate and could not, I now work in projects when red, green and amber is used as status report highlights. I cut the lawn and chop off the electric lead to the mower – which is the same colour as the grass – even worse on hedge trimmers. I struggle to use the Underground, I cannot play snooker, it goes on and on.
    The thing that gets me is that a lot of these things are easily sorted. I introduced shapes combined with colours in a factory worker guide that I produced, traffic lights could be square, round and triangle.The Tube could have lines made of dots of differing shapes. When you mention it because you are struggling (like cannot read the car speedometer – red on black is just not bright enough) people laugh at you and say “what colour is that then?” Can you imagine asking a blind person ‘how many fingers am I holding up?’!
    If a definition of a disability is something which affects your life and your job choices- colour blindness is that and at least it deserves some easily introduced changes which would cost nothing other than a bit of thought and awareness.

    • Avatar
      Paul Stanyer 2 Jul 2019 at 11:02 pm #

      Joseph, that is exactly my experience, although I can distinguish traffic lights there are many things I can’t, I have complained to the national trust several times that their colours of green and brown (frequently on top of each other) make their magazine impossible to read, I cannot get an audio copy (I’m not blind) or a braille copy. It is a disability.

  3. Avatar
    Darren 28 Mar 2020 at 1:26 pm #

    if as many people (1 in 9 or 1 in 10 in males?) who were 1 legged or any other disability were as common (and therefore as potentially as costly) as colourblindness it too would be deemed not a disability as coping strategies are available. IF it were only 1 in a 1000 then it you bet it would be considered a disability. This needs to change! This IS real discrimination yet someone who, is quite with in their right, wishes to change sex is given full & more support and (in the UK) can have thousands spent on an operation and follow up free medication (HRT) that some (often agenda driven bigots) may consider should go firstly to life threatened patients or that they should pay for the operation themselves. I understand there are glasseses that can (kind of) correct certain colour blindness’s? Why are these not available to us colourblind?

  4. Avatar
    Darren 28 Mar 2020 at 1:43 pm #

    1 more thing to back up the cost reason – although this is changing fast in the field of computer gaming it’s still male dominated (thankfully many more females are finding this media enjoyable). my point being though because more males suffer from colourblindness certain reputable game developers have programmed in colourblind modes (Bethesda being 1 of the best). Now I refer back to the “male dominated” section of my comment, I’d like to think this was done out of the kindness of their hearts but lets be realistic, if 1 in 9 (or 10 or 8 I forget) males are colourblind appeasing such OBVIOUSLY is a financial move – I might purchase a Bethesda game over a ubisoft game because Bethesda bother to add such a choice.
    My point is, it’s all about money or virtue signalling, you won’t get many pats on the back as a politician for helping those poor poor colourblind people but work to get a disability ramp installed. you hero.
    Colourblindness IS a disability, it’s simply the fact that “too” many males (less females) suffer from it that to make it a disability would be too costly yet if 1 in 9 people had only 1 leg before the other shoe dropped it would be deemed a situation that with so many wheelchairs, walking sticks & ramps etc had suitable coping strategies in place to deem it NOT a disability.
    If only the judge were colourblind but then that would be seen as being biased…. eh doesn’t that apply equally if the judge weren’t colourblind?
    ITS A DISABILITY – if it prevents someone doing what others can, then that is the dictionary definition of a disability.
    eg
    Disability
    noun
    1.
    a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.
    2.
    a disadvantage or handicap, especially one imposed or recognised by the law.

    the LAW…… Come on guys and ladies (& mothers) who pass it on, we need to get this changed.

  5. Avatar
    Srinivas 16 Apr 2020 at 1:01 pm #

    Iam colorblind.They only became to know when they rejected or disqualified fr the jobs they want to achieve.
    They can’t be police, RTO,pilot, firemen, several armed forces,driver, chef, civil engineers, electricians,Rescue and many more.only a person with disabilities can disqualified for this much of jobs.Do us a favor just cancel the disqualification with colorblind or consider us as disabled person.

    Srinivas K

  6. Avatar
    Don Lea 2 May 2020 at 7:54 am #

    Like 8% of the Caucasian males in the world, I suffer R/G Colour deficiency. There are extreme case of discrimination against people with this condition. It is not limed to men by the way, women also in the ratio of 1:200 as well are afflicted.

    Discrimination is everywhere in the world for us, even in Germany (who are generally a non discriminating / fair society) there are wretched bottle recycling skips, that have separate holes for brown glass and green glass, so 1 in 12 males are forced to break the rules (even standing the bottles on the top of the skips is dangerous (the on I use is near a school route) as if they get knocked off, they smash causing a hazard to passing kids.

    Far worse are the imbeciles who empty these containers, the come along with a giant truck with a crane on the back and lift the entire container, swing it over the open tuck bed, then drop the latch to dump the contents. Many times I have watched them do this and they ever clear the bottles standing on top, so if they drop off and smash; that’s where they are left, those that do make it, ar dumped wholesale into the wrong contained on the truck. I therefore take a guess, having decided that is the better option, than to risk these morons allowing them to smash on the floor, then drive off leaving broken glass everywhere.

    I’m just waiting for the day one of the Ordnungsamt decided to photograph me and try to fine me for breaking the rules, then I will pursue a discrimination case against the govt.

    I am sick and tired of the world pretending there is no discrimination or disability with Colour Vision problems. My Dad had such poor red/green issues that he used to stop at trafic light to work out the position, many a time with us kids in the car and more than once a roadside shouting match from other angry drivers, that was no only a disability but was dangerous. To my knowledge there is no requirement on driving licence terms to pass a colour vision test as part of the application (to do so would probably unleash simultaneous countless discrimination cases).

    I held RAC and ACU Competition licences and the Doctor’s doing the certification both gave serious pause when I noted that I am r/g colour deficient but in both cases, I could prove I knews the colours and meaning of the flags (in the acu License case, my Doc cut all the little flags out and mixed them up on his desk and did a point and identify (after getting every one right at random he reluctantly signed of on my medical fitness). My payback was in the general vision test, he asked me to read the smallest print on the chart, so I told him the printing date and printed by. That blew him away, so he then pinned a page of his newspaper to the chart, which I read for some lines. He looked quite disgruntled at this, rather like a castrated pig. In my junior school I was repeatedly chastised and belittled for painting the Sun Lime-Green and the grass yellow (those powder water colours are impossible for most R/G deficient kids to determine) and in Senior School, I got the red blackboard chalk banned throughout the school. We had a teacher called Titch-*itch (due to her demure size and fiery temperament. She taught history (which I despised) and wrote on half a dozen traditional blackboards, the ̶s̶h̶i̶t̶ lessons she commanded we copy to our exercise books each lesson, with a legend of the sequence on the main (rolling) blackboard. One day prowling around the class she noticed I had missed a segment of her written nonsense and exploded at me, demanding to know why I had missed the segment, which stupidly, she had written in red blackboard chalk; which is totally invisible to most R/G deficient kids, myself included. In the end after calling me an idiot and belittling me in front of 36 other kids, she told me if I don’t get it right and copy that text right now while she waits, I can go and report to the headmaster; which I duly did as I opened the classroom door to leave, she fired a parting jibe “on your own head be it stupid boy”. Told the Headmaster why I was there to see him and explained my story. After thinking a moment, he picked up his phone and called my old man (he was a Customer of my Dads with his car). He asked does your Son have Colour Vision problems,”yes sure, we both do admitting that reds are extremely difficult to see. Headmaster thanked him and told him he was going to sort the problem out and we both went back to my classroom. Headmaster explained that it was a red/green colour vision issue and I couldn’t see the text. Stupid woman challenged that and said “the stupid boy must be able to see that, everyone else can”‘ at which a couple of voices in the class said “I can’t”. Teacher lost it and started shouting at the Head; who then asked for hands if anyone else couldn’t see the text, two brave lads put their hands up. Head to Titch-*itch: “right, we’ll discuss this in the Staffroom later, be sure to see me there and as of NOW, all use of red blackboard chalk is banned. Silly woman started to challenge him and he said “it is MY school and it is MY decision, come to my office, we need to discuss this” With that they both left, the class ganged on the now three of us and called us stupid etc etc.Teach / Headmaster come back, he confiscates all her red blackboard chalk (and I heard from the Art Teacher later that he rounded up all the red sticks of chalk in the school and binned them all) making a school wide ban on the use of red blackboard chalk.

    Also, people with R/G colour vision deficiency, cannot be electrician’s service engineers of anything electrical, cannot work in any field that uses colour coded cables, colour coded anything that could present a danger to others. It is a serious discrimination and to label it a “non disability” is an extreme insult to those afflicted with it.

    My solution to convince the disbelievers is really simply, is take 10 litres of green paint, drop in 1ml of red paint and it becomes brown, no question! For those stubborns gits, do it in real life with 10 identical containers allow them to put the single 1ml of red into one of them (or even a few), blindfold them, mix them up and challenge them to point out the brown paint. I honestly doubt there is a human alive who could do that (maybe not even the tech equipment they us to ID unknown paints for Car Bodywork repairs)

    The irony of all this was that my Dad and his Brother ran a very successful motor Repair / service / Sales Garage business for 40 years or so. My Uncle was one of the best in the area at bodywork repairs (panel beating, filling, spraying etc). The thing was (and I watched him do it as a kid through to young adulthood) that it was my Dad who always mixed and matched the paint for my Uncle to spray (long before computers and the hi-tech ways of today). He was so good at this that other (very well known Motor Crash -Repair experts had him mix their paints too. It is a disability but in some cases, it can also be an asset too (as in my Dad’s case and I am sure he was no alone in that ability).

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