Success! Coach House Restaurant Gets a Ramp for Wheelchairs
Beth’s birthday was ruined when a local restaurant failed to accommodate her disabled mother. After Beth launched a Care2 petition, the restaurant got a ramp, apologised and tried to make-amends. One small campaign shows how speaking up for your rights can make a difference.
I had planned to go to Coach House restaurant for my birthday with my family, including my severely disabled mother, who travelled for seven hours for the occasion.
Knowing how difficult it is to find an accessible restaurant in Brighton, UK, I made sure I checked in advance and they confirmed it was fully wheelchair accessible.
When I arrived, there was a five inch step making the dining area totally inaccessible. There was ample space for a ramp but there was none provided.
The staff suggested we lift my mother in her wheelchair over the step, saying “this is what we normally do.” This is not an option for my mother in her wheelchair since a jolt could kill her as she has spinal problems. Aside from potentially breaking work health and safety regulations, the need to physically lift a wheelchair makes the restaurant NOT wheelchair accessible. If assistance is needed it is not accessible.
I suggested they put a table in the empty downstairs bar area. They refused. I asked why and was told, “we might get some drinkers in later.” So again, they chose not to make an effort to solve the problem. I told them they were choosing to discriminate.
After this, I felt like crying and this totally ruined my birthday. We were left out in the cold and rain with my disabled mother, trying to search for a truly accessible place for dinner on a busy Friday night in Brighton. Horrible.
The Equality Act
Restaurants in the UK have a legal “duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people” as part of the Equality Act 2010. Initially I assumed that when this law was broken it would be a matter for the police. However, it turns out that enforcing the Equality Act is in fact left to individuals to take businesses to court, which can be expensive due to court and solicitor fees.
As a result of this lack of enforcement, many businesses do not bother getting ramps, installing disabled access toilets or making other appropriate adjustments to their facilities for disabled people.
Rather than spend money on a court case, I decided to campaign for Coach House to make their restaurant accessible so that other people wouldn’t have the same experience in future.
I sent an email to Coach House asking them to resolve the matter by apologising, getting a ramp and training their staff in the Equalities Act. I described what had happened in a TripAdvisor review. I tweeted them and posted to their Facebook Wall. I blogged about it. I didn’t get a response.
So, I had to step things up a gear. I started a Care2 petition and quickly got thousands of signatures. It was really heartwarming seeing all the comments from people supporting us and showing real empathy for us, as it had been an upsetting experience.
I then reached out to disability rights groups for further advice, including the Equalities Advisory Support Service (EASS), Enhance the UK and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). EASS have fantastic template letters to send to businesses who discriminate against disabled people. These explain to businesses that it is their legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. So I sent Coach House a letter via snail mail, letting them know about the petition too.
Success! Apology and a Ramp!
A couple of days later, Coach House emailed me with a very genuine apology. They said that they had now bought a ramp and offered us a free meal.
I’m really pleased that as a direct result of this campaign other people who use wheelchairs will be able to visit this restaurant in the future. And I hope that other restaurants will hear about this campaign and be proactive in ensuring they are not discriminating as a result of ignorance about their responsibilities to disabled people.
So many restaurants break the Equality Act by not getting a ramp when they could easily do so that it would be exhausting to complain every time you experience this illegal discrimination. But until our laws to protect our rights are enforced by the police or council, the only way to improve things is by fighting for those rights ourselves.
If you experience discrimination from any business or organisation as a customer or a worker as a result of your age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy, race,