More than a fifth of the population in Northern Ireland have a long-term health problem or disability which limits their daily activities.
Those with mental ill-health face more negativity from neighbours and work colleagues than people with other forms of chronic illness, the Equality Commission said.
Chief commissioner Michael Wardlow said: “We need to strengthen the rights of disabled employees, customers, pupils in school and tenants against unlawful discrimination and a failure to make reasonable adjustments; as well as providing additional protection against discrimination for those who care for disabled people.”
In Northern Ireland just over a fifth of the population - 359,956 people - have a long-term health problem or disability which limits their daily activities.
This has an impact on a wider range of people, just over 40 per cent of all households in Northern Ireland have one or more people whose activity is limited in this way.
As well as mental health, other conditions which limit activities can include epilepsy or heart disease.
Mr Wardlow addressed a Belfast conference on managing mental health.
“People with all kinds of disabilities face great challenges on a daily basis but the Commission’s own research has shown that people with mental ill health face more negative responses than people with other forms of disability, from neighbours, from work colleagues and in accessing services,” he said.
He added: “Gaps in legislation, policy development and service delivery for disabled people have a considerable negative impact on the lives of many people in Northern Ireland.”