Disability Discrimination

In psychology, the term discrimination refers to prejudiced treatment or consideration of making a distinction towards or making those distinctions towards people based on the group, the class, or the category where the person belongs.

Disabled people are part of the group that faces discrimination in their daily lives, with the type of discrimination aimed at them being disability discrimination.

The need for protecting vulnerable groups such as disabled people from various types of discrimination, such as disability discrimination, is the reason behind the legislation creating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Over time, there has been positive progress towards ending discrimination, but the issue of discrimination against disabled people persists in contemporary society.

What Constitutes Discrimination and Positive Changes Over Time

The foundation of discrimination, as explained in the definition, includes certain prejudices aimed at particular groups because of specific aspects that define them, such as gender, sexuality, race, religion, and disability (Arneson, 2015). Therefore, discrimination in general constitutes the less favorable treatment targeting of certain individuals or groups. Precisely, disability discrimination constitutes unfavorable treatment of disabled people at the workplace, in institutions, or the community in general, because of their disability status (Arneson, 2015).

For instance, overlooking disabled people when selecting candidates for a particular position in the organization, regardless of their qualifications for the position, is an aspect that constitutes discrimination, particularly disability discrimination. Constructing buildings without making them accessible to disabled people is another aspect that constitutes discrimination as it prevents them from accessing the services offered in those buildings.

Over time, the issue of discrimination has received the attention of policymakers mainly because people are calling for equality in society. Disability discrimination, in particular, has had various policies enacted to help in realizing positive change regarding the issue.

One such positive change in the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination against employees with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities such as walking, sitting, reading, seeing, and communicating. The Act addresses five major areas that include employment rights, public services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and miscellaneous covered by four titles (ADA National Network, 2017). 

The ADA prohibited private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against disabled people in job hiring, firing, training, application procedures, advancement, and compensation. This made more disabled people able to keep jobs (Arneson, 2015). The ADA’s enforcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) allowed disabled people to enjoy favorable conditions in the workplace as well as receive the same treatment as able-bodied individuals. 

The positive change improved the employment rates of disabled people in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It has led to more disabled people becoming independent. The changes led to improved psychological development and self-images for disabled people. They now have more control over the direction of their lives.

Unchecked disability discrimination can have negative psychological impacts on disabled people. It may affect their ability to carry out their daily activities and result in social isolation. It can also lead them to develop depression and stress about their condition.

Although disabled people are better able to access employment and other essential services, disability discrimination still exists today.

Businesses usually aim at maximizing profits. Employers look for highly competent workers who can create quality work under pressure. They may think disabled people cannot do this. The desire for success leads employers to overlook qualified disabled people seeking employment. They consider them to be a liability and don’t see their potential as competent workers (Fredman, 2017).

Without a proper income source such as employment, disabled people are forced to be highly dependent on others for survival (Fredman, 2017). Many of the disabled people do not receive the amount of help they need to live a quality life. This forces them to live a life of isolation while languishing in poverty.

Therefore, even though there has been some progress in decreasing disability discrimination by improving disabled people’s access to opportunities, discrimination towards disabled people is still a factor in modern society.


Discrimination mainly results from prejudices aimed at particular groups because of specific aspects that define them, such as gender, sexuality, race, religion, and disability. Disability discrimination constitutes unfavorable treatment of disabled people at the workplace, in institutions, or the community in general, because of their disability status.

Over the years, new changes have granted disabled people better opportunities in the workplace. However, disability discrimination is not over. Companies, seeking to maximize profits, overlook disabled people in favor of their able-bodied counterparts.

However, with the ADA and the enforcement of the EEOC, disabled individuals now have recourse to such discriminatory actions. 


ADA National Network. (2017). An Overview of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Retrieved 10 October 2019, from

Arneson, R. J. (2015). Disability, discrimination, and priority. Francis and Silvers (eds.), American With Disabilities, 18-33.

Fredman, S. (2017). Disability equality: A challenge to the existing anti-discrimination paradigm?. In Disability and Equality Law (pp. 123-142). Routledge.