22 March 2019 - Article
The lack of accessibility for disabled spectators around events, both at the actual event and when trying to book leaves many feeling discriminated and marginalised, according to a report out this week. The report, mentioned in the following BBC article details issues faced by deaf and disabled music fans, in particular relating to access to tickets. Whilst this report focuses on the music industry, many of the comments will also be relevant for sporting events and puts the spotlight again on the obligations of organisers to improve access and facilities.
The increased visibility of this issue is accompanied by the potential for significant increase in legal action too. Earlier this year it was reported that Sally Reynolds – the mother of an avid eight year old Little Mix fan – successfully challenged LHG Live, the organiser of one of the girl group's recent concerts, in a sign language row. (BBC article).
Ms Reynold, who is deaf, sought an injunction against LHG to require them to provide a sign language interpreter for a concert in September last year. LHG had previously refused to provide an interpreter and so Ms Reynolds' argument constituted a failure to make reasonable adjustments in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. Complaints under the Equality Act 2010 usually result in an award of damages after the event, but to seek an injunction is both rare and unprecedented. This bold step by Ms Reynolds resulted in LHG agreeing to provide the interpreter just hours before the hearing.
The case helps highlight the wider issue and should be a timely reminder of the duties that such organisations are responsible for in providing an equal experience to all of their customers. Service providers need to think about these duties in the context of:
1) Their policies
2) Their promises; and
3) The provision of auxiliary aids.
The third of these duties is where Ms Reynolds argued that LHG fell short and is perhaps the one that most organisations overlook and a reminder that service providers need to be thinking about disabilities that can equally be invisible.
We hope this case will lead to better access and co-operation from the organisers of sporting and entertainment events. Such organisers must think ahead and proactively put in place provisions to assist disabled customers. It is possible that not every potential adjustment has been considered in advance by an organiser, particularly where a customer has a more unique disability or complex needs. Disabled customers should be able to approach organisers to discuss their needs and organisers should engage with these requests at an early stage. Failure to do so can lead to customers feeling discriminated and organisers faced with defending an injunction as a result. Organisers should therefore put in place procedures for swiftly dealing with requests and to make it clear how individuals can make such requests if necessary.
Back in March 2017, we wrote about the obligations of sports organisations towards disabled spectators click here for our article.