So one of the major frustrations in our work is that although the Equality Act provides effective remedies to people with protected characteristics to correct policies, practices and behaviour, we have to demonstrate that the outcome created a substantial disadvantage. This means that we have to wait for something to go wrong before we can fix it. But what if you know that a service provider’s going to prevent you from accessing an event, or premises? How does the law help you then?
Are we supposed to wait for someone who didn’t know about a service provider’s barriers to access turning up and having a terrible experience? I’m sure that’s not what Parliament intended when it drafted the Act.
We’ve been thinking our way around that, and we’re working on a case where 5 profoundly deaf people booked tickets to a music concert anticipating that BSL/English performance interpreters would be provided. When they contacted the venue, the venue said it was the promoter’s responsibility and the promoter simply said it was not providing any.
After discussing this with our clients we decided to apply for an Order from the Court compelling the provision of BSL/English performance interpreters on the basis that there is a strong case that the current policy is in breach of the duty to provide auxiliary aids to avoid disadvantage to deaf customers set out in the Equality Act, and that the cost of providing the support is modest. There has clearly already been a substantial disadvantage to our clients who have been caused significant stress and anxiety and have been forced to legally challenge the decision.
That application is currently listed for 2pm in the County Court on 1st September 2017…. the same day as the concert. Watch this space!