How to make sure your pub is welcoming to someone with a disability

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Staff training, clearer menus and an access statement can all helps pubs become more accessible
Staff training, clearer menus and an access statement can all helps pubs become more accessible

Related tags Disability Pma

The issue of disabled access in pubs hit the headlines again recently in a damning House of Lords report that found many pubs are still failing to provide up-to-scratch facilities for people with physical and mental disabilities, with even basic services like disabled toilets often used for storage. 

Concerned licensees were quick to stress​ that as much as they would like to make their businesses accessible for everyone, old and listed buildings can be difficult, or even impossible, to adapt.

However, it’s clear there are problems in some parts of the trade.

MP for Burton and All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group chair Andrew Griffiths called out one licensee on Twitter at the end of last year for her treatment of a customer with Down's syndrome, accusing the pub of humiliating the customer and reducing her to tears.

But what can licensees do to ensure their pubs are as welcoming as possible? The Publican's Morning Advertiser ​(PMA​) spoke to charities and trade associations to find out.

Staff training

Dean Meulemann and Danny Brice both have learning disabilities and work for leading disability charity Mencap. Pub staff must become more comfortable talking to people with a disability Meulemann told the PMA​, but changes don't need to be drastic to make a difference.

"Going to my local pub is really important to me," he said. "People with a learning disability can find it hard to be listened to or to socialise and pubs can be a rare opportunity to make friends and be part of the community. Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative attitudes and sometimes this comes from staff members in pubs.

"Staff don't always know how to communicate with someone with a learning disability and can lack patience. I've seen staff treat people with a learning disability differently to other customers and much of this is due to them not understanding.

"Pubs should make sure their staff are aware of the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK and look to include them so they have the same experience as any other customer. Pubs can be intimidating for people with a learning disability like me, but small changes to staff attitudes can make a huge and important difference."

Food and drink menus

For Danny Brice, pubs could go further to make sure food and drink menus are easy to read.

"One of the biggest problems I have when going to pubs is the lack of accessible information. My learning disability means I have trouble reading so menus can be really hard for me to understand. I'd like it if pubs used Easy Read (a style of information that uses pictures to make information easier to understand). This is really important when it comes to ordering the right food."

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities says that, in order to make text-heavy menus 'easy read', language should be simplified, broken down into short sentences and images used to represent sentences where possible. Complicated fonts and the italics should be avoided, and design elements kept to a minimum.

At the bar

Pubs can also take steps to help bar staff communicate with deaf or hard-of-hearing customers.

Olusegen Babatunde, who is profoundly deaf, set up YouMeSign, which enables bar staff to quickly learn British sign language, after becoming frustrated at not being able to communicate.

He created bar runners with basic sign language signs for drinks, snacks and food to help bar staff communicate with deaf customers. They have since been used by national bar chain O'Neill's and single-site licensees, including Graham Rowsone who runs the Black Horse in Preston.

Rowsone told the PMA​: "People really noticed them, everybody had a go at learning and it was also a nice ice breaker – everybody tried it. It made a difference to deaf customers, it made them feel like 'hang on, this pub really does care'."

Access statement

A spokesperson from the British Beer and Pub Association urged licensees to create an access statement, which allows customers to see, in advance, which facilities are on hand.

Visit England offers a free online tool to help businesses develop an access statement, which it says can help venues meet their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and also act as a marketing tool to help broaden their appeal.

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