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Equality North East

Victory for deaf man in landmark judgement

“All I wanted was to be treated like everyone else” says Mark.

Mark Keane, a 40 year-old deaf man from Grantham who was refused a job because of his disability, has won his fight to prove he was the victim of discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in a landmark case. The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) acted for Mark in what is the first case involving a deaf person discriminated against at work because no adjustments were made to allow him to avoid telephone work.

Using a lip speaker to help him understand the hearing, Mr Keane won £7,436 in damages in this innovative case.

Mark Keane was interviewed for a job as a part-time medical records clerk for Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust. He did not succeed in his application however as he was unable to answer incoming calls. Nevertheless, the employment tribunal in Nottingham decided that the job tasks could have easily been rearranged so that he did not have to answer the phone. And answering the phone was not a major part of the job.

Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust was found to be in breach of Section 6 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in this case. Mr Keane was placed at a ‘substantial disadvantage in comparison with other non-disabled persons by reason of his hearing impairment.’ It was the duty of the employer to make reasonable adjustments that would have overcome or reduced his problems regarding the telephone and yet, despite Mr Keane’s own suggestions, no action was taken. Adjustment to the job duties could have been made without any great inconvenience or expense on the part of the Trust.

Bert Massie, Chairman of the DRC, said:“The Disability Rights Commission is delighted - this is a victory for the civil rights of disabled people. Mark, like any other disabled job seeker, deserves to have as good a chance as anybody in the employment market. What this case emphasises is that there is now an onus on employers to make adjustments so as to remove the barriers that disabled people face every day when they go for jobs and which result in discrimination.”

Mark Keane said,

“There are serious employment barriers for deaf people. I feel that there should be a law to make it compulsory for employers to go on a short disability awareness training course to make them aware of these barriers.
"If a deaf person feels that he or she has been discriminated against I would recommend approaching the DRC for support. I often wonder the number of times I have lost out on opportunities of finding work due to employers’ ignorance. The Hospital Trust will now have to review its equal opportunities policy and ensure that managers are aware of their responsibilities.

“I feel sad that this had to happen but if it leads to more deaf people getting jobs then something good will have come out of it.

“I would like to thank the DRC and RNID for giving me support with this case.”

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August 16, 2002

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