Mr & Mrs E .v. Bourne Leisure Group Ltd (Failure to make reasonable adjustments for Blind Couple with a Guide Dog)

The Facts

Mr & Mrs E are both certified as being severely sight impaired. Mr E has no vision. Mrs E is certified partially sighted / sight impaired.

In or around October 2019 they decided to spend New Year away by themselves and to book Lakeside Holiday Village in Hayling Island, Hampshire as it was close to their home and they could arrange for their daughter to drop them off and pick them up. They booked a short New Years stay from 30 December 2019 to 2 January 2020.
They explained that they were both visually impaired and that they’d be taking their guide dog. They were told that taking their guide dog would not be a problem, that there would be adequate space to accommodate the guide dog and that they would try to secure a chalet near to the facilities.

At the time of booking the First Claimant asked whether there was somewhere for the dog to spend. She was told that there was a grass area where they could take the dog.

Mr & Mrs E arrived at Lakeside on 30 December 2019 at approximately 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Their chalet was around four minutes walk from the central centre where food and entertainment areas were.
The chalet was approximately 10×12 in size with two twin beds and a small en suite bathroom. There was insufficient room to place the guide dog’s bed away from their beds and as a result it had to be placed between the twin beds at their heads. They had to crawl to the bottom of the bed in order to get out of it to avoid stepping on the guide dog, but they still managed to stand on him.

On finding the grass location where the guide dog could spend, there were no bins provided. The staff provided a pedal bin.

Mr & Mrs E then attended for their evening meal and entertainment. They were placed at the front of the entertainment near the aisle and staff brought their meals and drinks over, though Mrs E’s view was obscured by a pillar and incorrect food was brought.

The entertainment was provided by line dancing with audience participation. Staff showed the audience what to do on stage, but Mr & Mrs E were unable to follow this because of their disabilities. At no point was any assistance offered to either of them to participate in the dancing.

The following morning on 31 December 2019 Mr & Mrs E went to use the on-site gym and swimming pool. At the building reception, they asked if they could leave the guide dog whilst they both used the facilities.

They were told by the staff member working on that reception that he was unable to look after the guide dog because he had other duties and would not be at reception all the time so the dog would be left unattended.Mr & Mrs E returned to the main reception area and spoke to another member of staff and made the same request.

The staff member said that she would speak with her manager and she returned to say that it was a health and safety issue because they were not trained to look after dogs. No other solution to the problem was suggested by staff or management. Mr & Mrs E use a gym and swimming pool near their home and they look after Ezra in the reception area whilst they both use the facilities, so they thought this would have been a reasonable adjustment.
Mr & Mrs E did not go on to use the gym and pool as a result.

They decided to go for a game of bingo which was located in the bar area.

Mr E asked for a large print copy of the bingo card and the staff member to whom he spoke said that he would see if this was possible. The staff member returned and said that it was not possible. They were told that if they wanted to wait, there would be a quick afterwards and they could join in with that.

After the quiz they there was an announcement stating that they would be be showing the film the Greatest Showman in a makeshift cinema they had created from their conference room. The conference room had two blocks of chairs with numerous rows and seating for around 55 people. The Claimants obtained seats on the second row from the front and the room was approximately half full.

Mrs E asked the staff member setting up the video if audio description could be put on. The staff member arranged for the audio description but after about 15 to 20 minutes of the film running, they overheard people saying that they could not watch that. Not long afterwards, a manager arrived and stopped the film. He came to speak to Mr & Mrs E and told them that the film would start again without the audio description because there had been two complaints that the audio description was affecting the other viewers’ enjoyment of the film.

Mr & Mrs E were very upset. They asked the manager how they Claimants could view the film. The Manager said that they could return to watch the film the following morning with audio description included. They said that they would prefer to carry on watching the film then as it had already been running for approximately 25 minutes by that point. Other viewers appeared to be happy to watch the film with audio description switched on.  In view of their experiences they decided to leave. Their daughter came to pick them up.

Mr & Mrs E received a full refund but the Defendant denied that it had lacked disability awareness.

Mr & Mrs E issued proceedings with the assistance of the in-house team at RNIB but proceedings were not served. The case was passed to Fry Law to assist.

The Law

Here’s how we argued the case:

The Claimants are disabled under Sch 6 of the Equality Act 2010 because of their certified sight loss.

The Defendant is a Service Provider and is bound by the obligations contained in sections 20, 21, 29 and Schedule 2 to the Act.

The size of the chalets at Lakeside are physical features. The size of the chalet in which the Claimants were placed at Lakeside placed (and place) disabled people with guide dogs, including the Claimants, at a substantial disadvantage compared to non disabled people in that they do not afford sufficient space for two people and a guide dog to sleep. The Defendant failed to take reasonable steps to avoid this disadvantage, such steps being to provide larger accommodation, in breach of its obligations under s.20(4) of the Act, thereby subjecting the Claimants to a detriment in that they were provided with cramped conditions whereby they were stepping on the guide dog contrary to section 29(2)(c)

Without an auxiliary service in the form of looking after a guide dog and/or providing a space for them to be left those who are visually impaired including the Claimant were (and are) at a substantial disadvantage in accessing the gym and pool facilities of the Defendant compared to non disabled people because they cannot take their dogs into the gym and pool area and leave them their whilst using those facilities. The Defendant failed to provide such an to take reasonable steps to avoid this disadvantage by providing this auxiliary service in breach of its obligations pursuant to section 20(5) of the Act and thereby subjected the Claimants to a detriment in that they were unable to use the gym and pool contrary to section 29(2)(c)

Without an auxiliary aid in the form of information in large font, disabled people with visual impairments, including the Claimants, were and are placed at a substantial disadvantage in accessing the service and or/facilities provided by the Defendant, in particular the bingo and quiz, compared to non disabled people who can read the whatever was provided. The Defendant failed to take reasonable steps to avoid this disadvantage by providing these auxiliary aids and ensuring that it had large print bingo cards and quiz pages available, in breach of its obligations pursuant to section 20(5) of the Act and thereby subjected the Claimants to a detriment in that they could not participate independently as a couple in the bingo and quiz, contrary to section s.29(2) (c) of the Act.

Without an auxiliary service in the form of assistance in tuition from staff in line dancing those with visual impairments including the Claimants were at a substantial disadvantage in accessing the entertainment provided at Lakeside compared to non disabled people in that they could not follow the instructions from the staff and so could not participate. The Defendant failed to take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage by providing such tuition, in breach of its obligations under section 20(5). The Claimants were subjected to a detriment in that they could not participate in the entertainment of line dancing provided as part of their stay.

Without an auxiliary aid in the form of audio description, those with visual impairments including the Claimants were at a substantial disadvantage in accessing the video entertainment in the form of the Greatest Showman provided at Lakeside compared to non disabled people in that they could not follow the film without the audio description. The Defendant failed to take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage by providing audio description for only the first 25 minutes of the film and then turning it off as a result of two complaints from members of the audience, in breach of its obligations under section 20(5). The Claimants were subjected to a detriment in that they could not stay for the rest of the film as they could not follow it.

The Outcome

The following terms were negotiated (without admission of fault):

  • Apology
  • £3,470 to each Mr E and Mrs E
  • Payment of legal costs

We’d like to thank RNIB for asking us to help with this case under our exclusive insurance arrangement with FLI.

Case Handled by Stuart White

Head & shoulders shot of clean shaved Stuart White in his suit looking like he means business

About the Author

Chris Fry

Chris is the founder of Fry Law.