Discrimination laws on access to goods and services

Date Added 05.04.13

A restaurant whose staff manhandled a customer in a wheelchair has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds for disability discrimination and for its failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so as not to disadvantage disabled customers.

A disabled customer had called a restaurant to check it had wheelchair access. However, when he arrived there was a step to negotiate. Instead of fetching a ramp stored at the rear of the restaurant, staff manhandled his wheelchair over the step and into the restaurant despite his specific protests.

After the restaurant ignored several letters of complaint he went to court, claiming the restaurant had breached its legal duties:

  • not to discriminate on grounds of disability in the provision of its goods and services; and
  • to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure disabled customers could access its goods and services.

The restaurateur claimed the man was a racist and a conman, but the court found he was genuinely distressed by what had happened. He had found it embarrassing, uncomfortable and undignified. Ordinarily, he only allowed his wife to touch his wheelchair. The court awarded him £3,000 for injury to feelings and £500 as compensation for the restaurant’s ‘insulting and abusive’ approach.

The duty not to discriminate in the provision of goods and services applies not just to people with a disability, but also on grounds of age (for over-18s only), race, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion and belief.

Recommendation

Businesses and other organisations providing goods and services should ensure they have anticipated the needs of disabled and other customers protected by discrimination laws, made reasonable adjustments and ensured staff are trained properly.

Case ref: Hosegood v Khalid (t/a Salt & Pepper Village) [2012] EqLR 1114

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