Measuring disability for the Equality Act 2010 harmonisation guidance

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:25 June 2019
Author:Caroline Smith
Approver:William Perks
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Harmonisation standards and guidance


The following guidance sets out how to collect and report information about disability to ensure statistics about this topic are as comparable as possible across the Government Statistical Service (GSS).

This guidance sets out how to measure disability on social surveys and administrative sources. It is based on the criteria used by different organisations or legislation to classify a person as disabled. These harmonised standards have been developed through consultation and workshops with key stakeholders including the devolved administrations.

Responses to the two harmonised standards on Long-Lasting Health Conditions and Illnesses and Activity Restriction are combined to determine if a person is classified as disabled. Combining these two harmonised standards ensures the core population of currently disabled people is estimated for the Equality Act.

This population is classified on the basis of having a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities. The information collected on impairment can be used alongside this classification to provide breakdowns by impairment type.


This section provides guidance on the survey questions to use when collecting information about disability. These questions have been designed to harmonise the collection of data across surveys.

QuestionResponse options
Do you have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last 12 months or more?Yes
Does your condition or illness\do any of your conditions or illnesses reduce your ability to carry-out day-to-day activities?Yes, a lot
Yes, a little

Presentation of outputs

This section provides guidance on how to display your outputs.

CategoryNominal Scale
DisabledNumeric 1
Not DisabledNumeric 2

Further information

The harmonised questions and the classifications which are derived  from them do not systematically include the non-core population of disabled people, covered in the Equality Act 2010. This group encompasses:

  1. those with a progressive condition specified in the Act (namely HIV/AIDS, Cancer or Multiple Sclerosis) whether or not the condition has a substantial adverse effect carrying-out day-to-day activities
  2. those who would be restricted without medication or treatment
  3. those that have been restricted in the past but are no longer restricted

These groups were excluded from the harmonised standards for the following reasons:

  1. the problems associated with capturing valid data on the three specified progressive conditions found in cognitive testing and in field testing for the Life Opportunities Survey
  2. the  high additional costs and added interview burden associated with adding an additional three elements across general social survey sources
  3. the questions capturing these non-core elements of the Equality Act will be maintained in the Family Resources Survey allowing continuity in population prevalence estimates to be maintained using these sources.

This group (1 to 3 above) will be included depending on how they respond to the long-lasting health condition and illness and activity restriction questions only.

Labels on data sources vary. How the responses are routed is as above in all cases.

Act or Principle Where it applies
Equality Act 2010Applies to Great Britain only
Disability Discrimination Act 1995Applies in Northern Ireland, replaced by Equality Act 2010 in Great Britain
Harmonised principleCan apply to any geography


Related links

Health harmonised standards

Long-lasting health conditions and illness

Activity Restriction

General Health


Other useful links

Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010

Health Statistics Quarterly – No. 42, Summer 2009: An update to measuring chronic illness, impairment and disability in national data sources

Health Statistics Quarterly – No. 51, Autumn 2011: Update on the harmonisation of disability data collection in UK surveys (Part 1 and Part 2)


We are always interested in hearing from users so we can develop our work. If you use or produce disability statistics, or are interested in comparing them, get in touch:

Review frequency:

This page will be reviewed annually.


Date Changes
25 June 2019

This document was updated to include explanation of how to use the questions– there is no change in measurement. This replaced the archived statistical measures of disability standard.

  • If you would like us to get in touch with you then please leave your contact details or email directly.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.