Is ankylosing spondylitis a disability?

Quick Overview

In the context of UK law and social understanding, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) can indeed be recognised as a disability, depending on its severity and the impact on the individual’s daily activities. However, the recognition and provisions for support vary depending on multiple factors.

Understanding Ankylosing Spondylitis

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and can cause severe, chronic pain. It primarily targets the vertebrae, leading to the eventual fusion of the spine. This can result in a hunched-forward posture if not treated promptly and adequately.


  • Chronic pain, especially in the spine
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity
  • Fatigue
  • Inflammation of other joints
  • Eye inflammation
  • Restricted lung capacity due to rib involvement

Is Ankylosing Spondylitis Considered a Disability in the UK?

Legal Definition

The Equality Act 2010 in the UK defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on one’s ability to do normal daily activities. Given the nature and long-term implications of AS, it can indeed fit this definition, depending on the case severity.

“A person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” – Equality Act 2010

Practical Implications

While AS may fit the legal definition of a disability, it’s essential to understand that not every person with AS will automatically be considered disabled. The impact of AS on one’s daily activities determines this. For instance, someone experiencing mild symptoms might not face significant daily hindrances, while another with severe AS could.

Benefits and Support

Individuals diagnosed with AS in the UK, and who face significant challenges due to the condition, can apply for benefits such as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). PIP is designed to help with the added costs of disability.

Criteria Description
Eligibility for PIP Must be 16 or over and have not reached State Pension age
Assessment Based on how condition affects ability to perform daily tasks, not based on the condition itself
Duration of symptoms Problems must be expected to last for at least 12 months

The Societal View on AS and Disability

General Perception

While the legal framework provides a structured definition, society’s view on disabilities can be more nuanced. Invisible disabilities, like AS, where symptoms are not always outwardly apparent, can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or misjudgments.

Advocacy and Awareness

Numerous organisations, including the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS), work tirelessly in the UK to spread awareness about AS, support research, and provide resources for those affected. Increased understanding and awareness can help challenge misconceptions and ensure that those with AS receive the support and understanding they require.


While Ankylosing Spondylitis can be considered a disability in the UK based on its impact on one’s daily life and the legal definition provided by the Equality Act 2010, it’s crucial to consider individual experiences. The severity of AS and its effects vary among individuals, and the assistance they require can differ accordingly.

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