Types of discrimination people with a visible difference can face
There are four main types of discrimination that are recognised by law.
1# Direct discrimination
This includes being turned down at a job interview because the employer says “you wouldn’t fit in”.
2# Indirect discrimination
This generally applies to rules or policies that are created for everyone but could put you at a disadvantage because of your visible difference. For example, a uniform policy is introduced at work to standardise what everyone wears but the uniform makes it harder for you to carry out your role or may make your visible difference more noticeable to others.
This is where someone behaves in a way that you find hurtful, offensive, humiliating or intimidating. The unwanted behaviour can range from a facial expression or gesture to spoken or written words and images. Excluding someone (not inviting them to meetings or events) is another example.
If you have experienced harassment, this could also be classified hate incident or even a hate crime. You may also find our page on how to manage challenges at work useful.
This is when you are treated unfairly because you have either complained about experiencing discrimination based on your physical appearance or have supported someone else who has been discriminated against.
There is also what is known as unconscious bias. This is where, without being aware of it, someone associates stereotypes with a person or group. This association affects how they interact and feel about the person or group.
Take a look at this video about unconscious bias and visit our dedicated unconscious bias page to learn more:
What you can do about appearance-related discrimination
While no one with a visible difference welcomes discrimination based on their physical appearance, some see it almost as inevitable. Many who experience discrimination do not report it.
Don’t accept discrimination as inevitable
Our advice and guidance section contains a range of information for people with a visible difference or parents who have a child with a visible difference, including:
Know your legal rights
The Equality Act 2010 protects nine characteristics from discrimination. Disability is one of them. A “severe disfigurement” is classed as a disability and is therefore protected by law. But the definition is vague and many people with a visible difference would not define themselves as disabled.
If you have a visible difference, it is wise to understand the legislation, so you know whether the law applies to you and what your rights are.
When it comes to hate incidents and hate crimes, the law applies a wider definition of the term disability. It can also be applied if the view is that the person committing the crime perceives you to have a disability. The police encourage everyone to report all hate incidents and hate crimes, either direct or using a third-party reporting centre, so they can understand the experiences of different communities.
When you face discrimination based on your physical appearance, you may also be experiencing a hate crime or hate incident. Read our advice on what to do if you experience abuse or harassment and when and how to report this to the police.
Help to reach more people with a visible difference
There are many ways you can support our work to end discrimination based on physical appearance:
- Sign up to our newsletter and be the first to know about our campaigns, partnerships and work to change laws and policies.
- Share your story and help others with a visible difference to find support and feel less alone.
Educate children about visible difference
Whether or not you have a visible difference, if you’re a parent or carer, you can help tackle discrimination by introducing your children to the idea of difference from an early age. Our resources pack lists books, TV and film and toys which explore visible difference and disfigurement, challenging myths and stereotypes about those of us who look different.
How we are working to end discrimination based on physical appearance
Here at Changing Faces we work to end discrimination and prejudice faced by those who look different. We want a society that values and respects everyone, regardless of how they look.
Campaigning for equality and respect
We run national campaigns to highlight the discrimination and prejudices that many people with a visible difference experience, including hate crime and abuse.
Increasing the representation of those with a visible difference in popular culture
If you have a visible difference you have probably noticed the lack of representation of people who look different in the media. Films and TV shows often maintain the stereotype that being “beautiful” means being “good”. Heroes are usually cast as “traditionally attractive” while “baddies” have scars or some other form of disfigurement.
Through our corporate partnerships, we have worked with businesses like Avon to increase the representation of people with a visible difference in their advertising and marketing campaigns.
Working with the visible difference community, we aim to influence government and opinion formers to drive changes that benefit people with a visible difference. We worked with the British Film Institute, who now commit to not having negative representation depicted through scars or facial difference in the films they fund.
Training for health professionals
We know from our research that many instances of discrimination based on physical appearance occur in schools, youth groups and workplaces. We have therefore produced:
- Training materials to help educators teach children and young people the value of differences and change negative stereotypes often associated with a visible difference.
- Guides for employers, encouraging them to develop an inclusive environment that welcomes everyone, regardless of their appearance. This includes advice on fair recruitment and unconscious bias training.
If you need emotional support
Whether you have experienced discrimination or not, Changing Faces can also help if you would like emotional support. We can explore the different ways to help you cope with your visible difference and the impact it has on your life. Find out about our Support and Information Line and how to get in touch.