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Home   »   Ability Network   »   About the Ability Network

About the Ability Network

The Ability Network concerns itself with issues of special relevance to disabled pharmacists within the UK.

The network was launched by the PDA in April 2020 as part of our work to meet the demands of our growing membership and advance our work on equality.

The PDA already helped individuals to stand up to any form of discrimination through casework support, which is already a core part of what the PDA does to help pharmacists at work. However, PDA would typically only get asked to be involved after the discrimination has already occurred.

The Ability network provides a structure through which members can work together to proactively address and campaign around disability discrimination and its causes and consequences.

Our mission

To enable all disabled pharmacists to realise their full potential and raise their profile by being educationally, socially and politically active.

What is a disability?

Many people may not appreciate the range of physical or mental health conditions that can be classed as being a “disability”. A significantly increased understanding of the subject is needed in workplaces and across society in order to underpin equality for people with disabilities.

The most commonly used symbol for disability is a wheelchair user and we understand that some people may think of disability as being only a limited number of conditions which can be instantly observed, such as using a wheelchair, a hearing aid or a white stick, rather than also considering non-visible disabilities, such as mental health conditions and many others. We also know that conditions that develop in later life may be categorised just as “getting older” rather than developing a disability.

In fact, the World Health Organisation says that over a billion people (about 15% of the world’s population) have some form of disability and that rates of disability are increasing due to population ageing and increases in chronic health conditions, among other causes. Read more.

The Equality Act 2010 provides protections from disability discrimination at work, and elsewhere if a person has:

“…a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.

Examples of disability can include

  • long-term medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes
  • fluctuating or progressive conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or motor neurone disease
  • mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder or depression
  • conditions including dyslexia and autism.

People also automatically meet the disability definition under the Equality Act 2010 from the day of diagnosis with HIV infection, cancer or multiple sclerosis. Those with severe disfigurement will be protected as disabled are also covered without needing to show that it has a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.

The social model of disability

Over time several “models” of how society treated people with disabilities evolved.

Initially, there was what is known as the charity model where people with disabilities were considered as objects of charity and pity that existed outside of mainstream life.

As advances in treatment of various conditions developed in the 20th century, the charity model was mainly replaced by what is called the medical model.  The medical model of disability views people as having a problem that needs to be “cured” or “fixed”  so that they can become like everybody else, even if the disability is not actually causing them any problems. The focus is on what is “wrong” with the person and they are considered disadvantaged and expected to achieve less in life than those without disabilities.

It should be noted that some everyday language still used today continues to reflect the outdated models of disability, such as saying someone “suffers” from a condition rather than just saying they “have” that condition.

Thankfully, as our society has progressed, the medical model has mainly been replaced by the social model of disability. Instead of seeing the person with a disability as ‘having something wrong’ that needs to be ‘fixed’, the social model recognises that it is often barriers caused by attitudes, structures and the environment that disadvantage the person with a disability.

Our network adopts the social model of disability and aims to identify, highlight and remove barriers that prevent pharmacists with disabilities from realising their full potential or be educationally, socially and politically active.

What we do together

The Ability network is made up of members like you, supported by PDA staff.  We can share our advice and experience, along with information from other organisations, and it is the actions of members that will contribute towards an equal world. We will:

  • Examine healthcare issues for disabled pharmacists
  • Contribute to debate within the profession and healthcare sector
  • Raise awareness of issues impacting on disabled pharmacists
  • Provide networking opportunities
  • Represent pharmacy amongst disabled organisations
  • Help disabled pharmacists to achieve equality in their workplace
  • Campaign together on issues which are important to the network
  • Create opportunities for CPD and skills sharing
  • Celebrate the success of disabled pharmacists and pharmacy students
  • Grow the network and our influence.

Benefits of membership

As well as the ability to support and engage in the work of the network, Ability network members will also have access to a number of other benefits, including:

  • PDA and Ability network Publications
  • PDA and Ability network Training & Education (at member rates)
  • PDA and Ability network Conferences (at member rates)
  • PDA Plus benefits (discounts and special offers)

Membership eligibility

Membership is open to all UK pharmacists and former pharmacists (e.g. retired or taking a career break) and all UK pharmacy graduates, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual identity, disability, nationality, hours worked or employment status. Pharmacists do not need to identify as having a disability in order to join the network: we welcome allies – people who will support equality and fairness for disabled pharmacists.

How to join

You do not need to be a member of the PDA to join, though PDA members do benefit from a discounted membership fee.

PDA members can join the Ability Network for £10 per year, Retired members for £20 per year and non-PDA members for £30 per year. In accordance with PDA’s support for future pharmacists, the Ability Network membership is FREE for PDA student members and trainees (PDA student and trainee membership is also FREE).


Contact the Ability network:

All contact with the network will be treated in confidence and with sensitivity.

Join the Ability Network today

Pharmacists, pharmacy students and trainees can join the PDA now.

Join the PDA today


The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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