Whilst many operators are already up to speed with their obligations to provide equal access to their services for both disabled and able bodied customers, the press have recently highlighted unequal treatment of disabled customers at two outlets.
In Brighton a girl suffering from a chromosome abnormality was asked to leave a pub when she crouched down because she was startled by a sudden blast of loud music. In another incident in Lancashire, a pub refused to serve food to a group of disabled customers – whilst acknowledging that it would have served a group of non disabled customers.
In both cases apologies were issued, but the disabled persons were humiliated and both pubs suffered bad publicity. In the Brighton case action was taken against the member of staff involved.
Licences at risk?
A House of Lords report last year on the impact of the Equality Act on disabled people found that disabled people are not yet able to participate fully in society and that further action is needed. The report argued that pubs which breach the Equality Act by not providing facilities for the disabled should have their licence refused or should be shut down.
The trade hit back at this report explaining that for some older premises the cost of adapting them to facilitate disabled access would be prohibitive. The Government has responded to the report – although not agreeing to introduce new legislation, acknowledging that local authorities would consider the needs of the whole community when exercising their powers on licensing and building regulations issues. So when considering a licence application, disabled access would be one factor to be taken into account, as would whether permission for remedial work should be given and the cost of carrying out such work.
Steps that should be taken:
It is crucial that all pubs, hotels, clubs and restaurants should address equality by:
- Having an equality policy which covers disabled customers. This should be shared with staff and customers and should be actively endorsed by management.
- Giving staff equality training so that they understand how to provide a service to disabled customers and what reasonable adjustments need to be made. The Brighton incident occurred while the general manager was off the premises and an inappropriate decision was taken by another member of staff.
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