Para Olympic Rider Wins Equality Case Equality Authority Press Release

Ms Joan Salmon today won her case in relation to victimisation under the Equal Status Act 2000 against Para-Equestrian Ireland. Judge Katherine Delahunt found in her favour in a circuit Court Appeal of a previous equality tribunal decision. Ms Salmon was awarded €3,500 and Para Equestrian Ireland were ordered to readmit her to membership of and full participation in the sporting events of Para Equestrian Ireland and that she be offered reasonable accommodation to allow her to participate fully. The case was supported by the Equality Authority.

In June of 2001 Ms Salmon was invited to attend an equestrian event in Scotland by Para Equestrian Ireland. Para Equestrian Ireland refused to allow Ms Salmon, who is visually impaired, to bring her guide dog. Ms Salmon considered this to be discriminatory in failing to make reasonable accommodation for her.

At first she was told the refusal related to foot and mouth restrictions in Scotland. Ms Salmon on investigating this was told there was no such problem by the Department of Agriculture and by the Gleneagles Equestrian Centre. Para Equestrian Ireland then told her that it would create too much work to bring the guide dog. The matter was then raised in the media.

Para Equestrian Ireland then refused Ms Salmon entry into all future events coming under the control of Para Equestrian Ireland until she gave a written apology for media comments on the issue. Ms Salmon subsequently gave a written apology which was not accepted because it was deemed inadequate. Over this time, Ms. Salmon missed out on the possibility of participation in the World Championships and the Para Olympics. Ms. Salmon sought assistance from the Equality Authority to take a case of victimisation under the Equal Status Act.

Victimisation is prohibited under the Equal Status Act 2000. Victimisation occurs where someone is penalised for having “opposed by lawful means an act which is unlawful” under the Equal Status Act. The case was heard in September 2003 by the Equality Tribunal which found in favour of the respondent in a decision issued in January 2004. In an appeal to the Circuit Court Judge Katherine Delahunt has found that victimisation did occur.

Niall Crowley, Chief Executive Officer of the Equality Authority “welcomed this important and ground breaking result”.

“In a context where a broad range of services are provided to people with disabilities by voluntary organisations this finding reinforces that the equality legislation applies to these organisations. The voluntary or charitable nature of the services does not take away from the rights of people with disabilities under the Equal Status Act. Voluntary organisations in this sector need to gear up to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the equality legislation”.

“The case raises issues in relation to the relationships between the individual with disabilities and the voluntary organisations that manage the funds and services that they require. It demonstrates an unacceptable vulnerability when this relationship goes wrong. It is important to ensure an equality in this relationship between client and service provider such that the client is empowered to seek basic entitlements and rights and is not penalised for doing so. Service providers need to put in place and operate adequate procedures in this regard”.

“Voluntary groups play a central role in the quality of life of people with disabilities and in the quality of their participation in society. As such it is vital that they operate to high standards. There is a need for an enhanced focus on such standards in this sector and on monitoring and enforcing these standards”.

Ends

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