Earlier today an another Disabled person experienced disability discrimination and was refused entry to an art gallery becuase she “took up too much room”.

Even without knowing the full facts of Dea Birkett’s daughter’s visit and experience at Proud Gallaries. What do you do when you are turned away for being Disabled?

An art gallary at full capacity can manage the situation for a visitor and the gallery – it is simple common sense and good customer services to get it right. Suggesting the visitor comes back in 10 mins after having a coffee to allow time to reduce gallery numbers could have been one of them.

Proud Galleries are understandably upset at the negative publicity generated on Twitter Alexander Proud responded quickly and is taking action. I did notice lack of access information for visitors on their website and am sure that will improve in light of this.

There is also legislation and legal rights NOT to be discriminate against a disabled person and all service providers must make reasonable adjustments and also anticipate what access requirements are needed to accommodate all visitors/customers.

The Equalities Act 2010 strengthens previous Disability Discrimination Act (1996/2005) bringing race, gender, disability and sexuality legislation under one act.

So what do you do?
The formal route is to use The Equalities Act 2010 the route that has the most impact instantly is negative publicity and raising the profile through social networking sites like Twitter. Pesky People sees the power of social networking as the way forward.

  1. Make a formal complaint in writing (note this has to be done by registered post) allowing 14 working days to get a reply. The legislation should catch up with modern means of communication instead of ‘snail mail’ via email / twitter / facebook etc.
  2. Take pictures, video etc. at the time it’s evidence. Get names of people you have spoken to, who made discriminatory comments etc. It helps back up your claim of discrimination.
  3. Contact the EHRC helpline. Do your reading before hand as they will just signpost you to various documents online.
  4. Read your rights under The Equalities Act 2010 namely it is illegal to discriminate on grounds of disability, services should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ (these are open to interpretation) to enable a disabled person to have access to the same goods and services as everyone else.
  5. If the complaint is not resolved take it up further with the EHRC and seek legal advice.

This ties in – Scope have started a campaign Stage and Screen to get people to complain directly to the CEO’s of every theatre and cinema in the country. Join them and also fill in our survey. Tell us what is important so that it can inform how we develop GoGenie.

So what is the fuss? It’s been 15 years since we got The Disability Discrimination Act in place. We are a part of society, we work, we pay taxes, we contribute, we want to be a part of society.

Postscript

As the number of re-tweets of Dea Birkett’s original comments went viral. I’m amazed at the response of people saying how horrified they were at this situation. I should be really pleased that people out there care so much at what happened to her daughter.

What I was not prepared for  was how angry the comments got.

There is much to be said for the power of twitter – it passes information round quickly, it gets action, it mobiles people.

Proud Galleries have been hosting a long running club night with Mencap to provide a space for people with learning disabilities. The first night in July 2009 kicked off with Heavy Load“Brighton’s answer to the Ramones” a great band made up of people with and without learning disabilities.

This week they have another event Lets talk Disability at Proud Camden “Campaigning with Ch4’s Battlefront to change people’s perceptions of disabled people” led by Ella Prendergast on Twitter @talk_disability. To quote Ella “I want people to interact with the individual rather than the disability”.

It doesn’t make this situation right but rather than condemning Proud Galleries outright we should we taking notice of their apologies and willingness to investigate and get it right quickly.