Disability discrimination ruling overturned

October 14, 2009

A woman who won an employment tribunal case against her employer has had her claim dismissed following an appeal. Kerry-Ann Cumming worked as an Operations Coordinator for Lothian and Borders Police, was suspended from her role as special constable in February last year after failing the medical screening test. Her application to become a full-time officer could progress no further after she failed the standard vision test. Following her complaint that she was a victim of disability discrimination an Edinburgh employment tribunal ruled that her condition amounted to a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and the case should go ahead.

Ms Cumming, of Edinburgh, has general vision which is above average, has Browns Syndrome since birth, which means she cannot lift her left eye to look directly upwards. Her vision in that eye is also impaired and cannot be corrected by spectacles, contact lenses or surgery, although her right-eye vision is better than normal. At an earlier tribunal she said that she believed her eyesight problem would not affect her ability to perform the duties of a regular police constable. She had received commendations for her performance as a special constable.

However, in the employment tribunal appeal Lady Smith questioned the tribunal’s finding that Cumming’s visual impairment was substantial and therefore defined her as disabled under the DDA. She called this ruling ‘perverse’, as Cumming had argued that her impairment would not impact on her work as a police officer.