“Some people with learning difficulties, they don’t understand money,” she said, in an exchange that was captured on video.
“It’s about having a therapeutic exemption and the article was in support of employing people with learning disabilities, that is what it was.”
As she was speaking, a member of the audience can be heard shouting: “I’m autistic, and I want to get paid for the work I do” while another person shouts “how patronising, how dare you”.
Others respond angrily, shouting “shameful” and “they deserve a salary”.
Tory candidate Ms Hart encouraged people in the audience to read an article in right-wing magazine The Spectator which made the same argument, adding: “It’s about the happiness of work”.
Labour’s shadow disabilities minister Marsha de Cordova branded the comments “hateful”.
“If Boris Johnson wins next Thursday, the hostile environment the Conservatives have created for disabled people will push even more into poverty,” she said.
“Disabled people are already shut out of employment and have been disproportionately harmed by the Conservative and Lib Dems’ cuts. Now, these comments further expose the contempt the Conservatives feel for disabled people, which underlie their policies towards us.
“These aren’t comments Sally-Ann Hart made years ago. She made them during this election. Anyone with such hateful views has no place in Parliament."
Ciara Lawrence, Campaigns Support Officer at the learning disability charity Mencap and who has a learning disability, said: “People with a learning disability, like me, can work and can make really fantastic employees with the right support. We have a right to be treated and paid equally – it’s the law. I’m proof that with the right support people with a learning disability can make some of the best and most committed employees. All that is needed is for employers to make small and cost-effective reasonable adjustments in the workplace to open up doors to employment for people with a learning disability.
"Employers can make their application processes more accessible, like providing work trials rather than formal interviews, and apply for Access to Work support, like job coaches, to help people with a learning disability succeed at work. Work for me is more than just a job, it has helped me increase my independence – I am married and am saving up for nice things for my first home. We should be sending out the message to people with a learning disability that they can work and be paid equally for it. I want to work with all political candidates to help educate them about what a learning disability is and what people with a learning disability can achieve with the right support.”
The Independent has contacted the Conservative party for further comment on this story but not yet received a response.
The Tories held Hastings and Rye, the old seat of Amber Rudd, by just 300 votes at the 2017 general election.