A major report into the lives of disabled people argues local authorities should be allowed to refuse to grant or renew premises’ licences for breaching the Equality Act after finding many pubs and restaurants were failing to provide basic facilities like disabled toilets and were difficult to access.
The ‘Equality Act 2010: the impact on disabled people’ report also found that some pubs are using disabled toilets for storage, running the risk of potential legal action.
Peers said they agreed with a statement from the Access Association that said: “This country should not expect disabled people to spend their own time fighting for physical access to services. It should be provided by local authorities, via the licensing system. A local authority should be able to request the provision of facilities which enable disabled people equality of access and should be able to enforce the maintenance and continued provision of these facilities.”
'Let down across the whole spectrum'
Chair Baroness Deech said: “Over the course of our inquiry, we have been struck by how disabled people are let down across the whole spectrum of life. It’s time to reverse the attitude that disabled people are an afterthought.”
Licensees have previously been urged to rethink access in a 2012 guide from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which stressed that operators may already have customers with access needs - even if they don’t realise it.
More than a quarter of the UK population have a health problem or a disability according to a study by VisitEngland, which also said that people with access needs were a ‘very loyal’ customer group.
A BBPA spokesman said: “Shutting pubs isn’t the answer, but we should all be encouraging pubs to be accessible as possible. A lot of simple modifications can be made and staff training is key. Keeping the customer informed is very important which is why we urge pubs to have an access statement so that customers can see in advance what facilities are on hand.”