David Colley wrote the following ‘jokey style’ email to a pub chain yesterday:
After a rather depressing visit to a Wetherspoons pub, I tried to cheer myself up. We all need to remember the bright side of discrimination, after all. Don’t we?
So here’s what I wrote to them….
Today I visited The Five Swans in Newcastle upon Tyne (NE1 7PG) a Wetherspoons pub.
I am a wheelchair user and had significant problems.
The bar is up a small flight of stairs, which thankfully has a platform lift for wheelchair users like me.
However there is a sign on the wall saying “Disabled use only. Please ask at bar for assistance”. The platform lift was switched off.
So, like some Impossible Puzzle, I was supposed to magically levitate up a flight of stairs to get to the bar, to ask for the key so that I could magically go back to my wheelchair and then use the platform lift to… you guessed it, get up those same stairs.
I tried. I did. But funnily enough wasn’t up to the task.
Its clearly a nonsense. And after waiting a significant amount of time to attract staff attention (while other people happily walked past me up to the steps to the bar)
I spoke to the Duty Manager Craig Dobeson and told him as much. His response: “There’s nothing I can do.”
Although he did offer to contact head office to change the signage.
He then also suggested I simply wait at the bottom by the lift until a member of staff went past, and gave me the web address of your main company.
I’m sure I don’t need to point out that this is not the same level of service as non-disabled people.
Its not the sign thats the critical issue. Its the magical levitation bit. Changing the sign doesn’t negate the challenge itself.
Also, there is plenty that can be done, for instance:
- leave the lift turned on so that people can use it (this is not as unusual as it sounds – lots of shops have lifts to other floors where members of the public are free to use them without asking permission or for a key from staff);
- or install a buzzer so that staff can promptly come and turn the lift on and enable wheelchair users to get to the bar in a timely fashion.
(Please note: If you wish to use the reason of “vandalism” by third parties” for justifying turning the platform lift off, and keeping the key with staff up the same flight of stairs, please be aware that as a disabled person I hear this a lot, and magically this is only used to justify locking facilities for disabled people.
Not once have I heard of this excuse being used to lock facilities for use by the main customer base.
However, if you would still like to use this as a reason, could you please supply me a complete copy of all the incident reports, including police incident numbers. Just so we can be absolutely clear about the scale of the problem).
Could you please quickly find a reasonable solution to me using the pub properly without:
- having to wait some unspecified time vainly waiting for staff to co-incidentally pass by (while other customers laugh gaily as they troop past me);
- learning to master levitation techniques (or prolonged yogic flying);
- throwing myself on the floor and physically dragging myself up the stairs (throwing caution to the wind and giving my M&S clothes a run for their money on the dirty floor);
- or having to bring a loudhailer to attract the attention of bar staff some considerable distance away, up a flight of stairs and round a corner;
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Equality Act 2010. Its not the most fun read. I doubt it will ever be made into a feature film, but its worthwhile casting your eyes over it, I promise you.
My thanks in advance.
p.s. please forgive the sarcastic tone; I don’t mean to offend. But you did start it with that sign, didn’t you, really? (picture enclosed)”
Postscript: Weatherspoons sent this email reply:
Dear Mr Colley
Thank you for your email and for taking the time to contact us, your details have been passed to me for response.
We are concerned to read your comments and are currently investigating the issues you raised and will be in touch in due course.