Joanne Degeir, from Walton, Liverpool, was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition which can cause her speech to slur, muscle weakness, difficulty walking and issues swallowing, symptoms she has battled on a daily basis for her whole life.
Allegedly, Degeir was banned from ordering a wine and lemonade at the pub in Walton in October 2018, after she was accused of being drunk, despite her only having had two drinks and requests to speak to the manager being rebuffed.
Degeir said: “I have slurred speech due to my cerebral palsy; it gets worse when I’m nervous or tired, otherwise, I don’t use a wheelchair or walk with a stick so I look able-bodied, my disability is invisible.
“When I went up to order a drink the staff said ‘no, no, we’ve been warned about you’, they thought I was drunk due to my slurring, I had only had two glasses of wine and lemonades.
Better training for pub staff
“The staff made a complete show of me, it felt like I was back in school being bullied and the next day, I was crying my eyes out. I had sleepless nights about it, I still felt the fear of it happening to me again.
“It made me feel ashamed of my disability, something I can’t change, I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve gone through.”
The 51-year-old has called for staff in pubs across the UK to be trained in the symptoms of neurological conditions and invisible disabilities like cerebral palsy, to ensure they can treat customers with disabilities with respect.
Degeir added: “At the time I was in quite a bad place and felt like I couldn’t stand up for myself and I hate to think other people might be in a similar situation.
“Even if this happened to one other person, that is too many, I want everyone to be more aware of these invisible conditions so people with them can be treated with more dignity.”
Compassion is incredibly important
As part of her campaign to raise awareness of cerebral palsy and other conditions, Degeir has shared her story to promote The Brain Charity’s newly launched ‘Sixmas’ appeal, which hopes to raise £60,000 for mental support for people with neurological conditions.
The Brain Charity CEO Nanette Mellor said: “‘Joanne’s story is really unfortunate and all too common.
“It demonstrates how important it is for us all to take a step back and really think about the person who is front of us before making any judgements.
“Lots of disabilities are invisible, and it is incredibly important for us all to be as openminded and compassionate as we can towards those, we meet whom might not act or look the same way that we do.”