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.

3 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.

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