Coverage for Colostomy under Disability Equality Act?

May 17, 2016 3:58 pm


Does anybody know if having a colostomy is covered under the Disability Equality Act?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.



May 18, 2016 6:09 am

Hello tricia63.  This is an interesting question which doesn't have a simple answer.

To become registered as a disabled person in the UK the condition has to affect you in such a way that you would be considered permanently and substantially disabled. As far as I know there is not a list of conditons to qualify people to be registered as disabled. Many people with stomas are not 'disabled' by the condition even though it may be permanent. So, it is very specific to the individual  and usually comes down to a judgement call by a social worker or an OT and they require confirmation of the effects of the condition from a medical practitioner.

You could put forward the argument that your condition necessitates a need for access to disabled toilets and, if it 'disables' you in any other way in your daily life then you should add that to the list of things to bolster your argument.

I became registered as disabled because of my severe faecal incontinence before I had the stoma. It got to the point where I could not walk around because that would make me incontinent.  I argued that I needed a bicycle for transport so that the saddle would keep the anal plug in place and they agreed with my logic and registered me as disabled at the same time as writing me a letter confirming that I needed a bicycle for mobility purposes in the same way that other people needed wheelchairs. They also offered to authorise a Blue Badge parking permit so that I could park near to public toilets but I declined that because with the bicycle I could and would ride right into the loos and it did not pose a problem being any distance from them.

I would suggest that you make a comprehensive list of all the facets of stoma life for you that make you feel 'disabled' and then make an appointment with your GP to see if they would support you. Then see someone from social services (either a social worker or an occupational therapist - depending on who your local Social Services Department have designated the task to) to discuss the registration process and assess whether you would be eligible.

Oh! and a useful tip would be -  make sure you are putting across the worse-case scenario. 

Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Best wishes


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May 18, 2016 9:54 am

Sorry Bill, but in the UK there hasn't been any 'registration' of the disabled for years - nobody keeps a register anymore! (+ see below) Yes, an ostomy is covered under the current legislation, so (for example) you can ask for 'reasonable adjustments' in the workplace - the snag, of course, is who defines 'reasonable' in that setting. In practice, the employer doesn't have to do that much. I see from your profile that you work for the NHS, Tricia - in theory, they should be exemplary employers, but the practical reality may be different!

I have some recent experience of this stuff - let me know if I can help.

+ I tell a lie: the County of Oxfordshire still appears to keep a register, under legislation passed in 1970 and still theoretically current (though largely superseded)

May 18, 2016 3:08 pm

Hello ChrisP.

Thanks for drawing this to my attention. It was some years back since I was registered so I  telephoned my local Social Services Department just now to check and they inform me that Hertfordshire still maintain a register of disabled people.

I therefore presume that each County is doing its own thing in this regard.

Best wishes


May 18, 2016 3:30 pm

Hi Bill, ChrisP,

Thank you both for all your advice. I do work for the NHS and I am having a few problems with a new manager who is making me work in areas that have a lot of heavy lifting. I have suffered many hernias over the years and she ignores my request to work in an area within A&E that does not require so much heavy lifting. I have asked for a work-based assessment from our occupational health department and I have asked for a meeting with our human resources team. I am in a union and I will be requesting that a rep comes with me to my meeting.

The most frustrating part is that all my surgeries (11 in 5 years, 6 of which were strangulated hernias and life-threatening) have been within our trust so they all have access to my records. I find that so many people seem to know what goes on without my consent. The latest one was a colleague asked me how I felt about having pig skin as a support to strengthen the hernia areas. I was totally gobsmacked when they asked me and when I asked how they knew, their reply was our new manager had told them.

Thanks again guys, I will keep you posted on the outcome.


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May 18, 2016 5:01 pm

Hi Tricia63,

I am in the US, so I don't know if this is any help or not, but I am a Union Rep. I did some research about the UK's Disability Equality Act of 2010. To meet the definition of disability, you must have a mental or physical impairment which is substantial and long term. Substantial meaning more than minor or trivial. Long term, meaning 12 months or more. The law purposely is wide open and does not list each qualifying disability, so as to not exclude any possible disabilities. ;As ChrisP mentioned, "Reasonable Adjustments" can be requested.

Another law in your country, which may apply, is the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974, which requires employers to protect all workers from the risk of injury or harm at work. If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of disability, you can bring a case to the Tribunal. There may be time limits you have to meet. The fact that your manager divulged your personal medical information may have violated the law.

It is good that you contact your Union Rep. Beyond the protections you have under the law, there may be some provisions in your contract (or Collective Bargaining Agreement) which afford additional protections or rights.

I highly recommend that any requests that you make to your employer be made in writing, so that you have proof.

I hope everything works out well for you.


May 18, 2016 9:27 pm

Hi Ken,

Thank you so much for taking the time to advise me. It is very much appreciated.

I called my union today. They are looking into it for me and are getting back to me tomorrow. I have printed the Equality and Disability Act. I am going to read every word when I get home from work this evening.

Thanks again.