Radio Presenter Wins Disability Case Against Pub

In a case involving a wheelchair user denied access to toilet facilities, the Equality Authority today welcomed a consent Order made by Judge O’Donnell of the District Court that Searson’s Pub Baggot Street, discriminated against a customer with a disability. Searson’s undertook as part of the Order to provide wheelchair accessible toilets in accordance with Part M of the Building Regulations by 1st December 2006 and to pay €500 to the claimant and a further €500 to the Irish Wheelchair Association.

This case was taken by Mr Olan McGowan who is a wheelchair user with the support of the Equality Authority. Mr Olan McGowan is the presenter and producer of the ‘Outside the Box’ radio series on RTE. He attended a college reunion in Searson’s public house on Baggot Street, Dublin 4 on 22nd October 2005. He was one of a group of 25 people. The group reserved an area of the pub for themselves and had ordered some food. However during the course of the evening, Mr McGowan approached one of the barmen with a friend and asked whether there was a toilet that was wheelchair accessible. The barman informed them that there was no wheelchair accessible toilet and suggested that Mr McGowan try the Waterloo Bar which was located nearby. The barman did not offer any apology or assistance to Mr McGowan. Mr McGowan was then compelled to leave the pub and visit the Waterloo Bar which kindly offered their toilet facility and then returned to Searson’s Pub. The claimant subsequently sought the assistance of the Equality Authority.

The Equality Authority sought to clarify what efforts were made by the pub to cost the facilitation of a wheelchair accessible toilet. However, despite numerous requests by the Equality Authority no such information was provided by the pub up to and including the day of the hearing.

In welcoming the outcome of the case Niall Crowley, CEO of the Equality Authority stated “the outcome of this case is very important for people with disabilities. It clarifies that the failure of licensed premises, which includes public houses, hotels and restaurants, to provide toilets that are accessible to wheelchair users constitutes less favourable treatment, is discriminatory and breaches service provider’s obligations to provide reasonable accommodation for its customers with disabilities. This has important implications for all service providers. It will contribute to greater accessibility for and participation by people with disabilities in social life”.

He added that “the case reflects an important pattern that has emerged in casework under the Intoxicating Liquor Act. It builds on an earlier case where the Russell Court Hotel, Dublin, consented to a finding of discrimination on the disability ground by the District Court and undertook to install a wheelchair accessible toilet to serve the hotel bar. As such the case must be an urgent alert to all service providers to gear up to their statutory obligations to customers with disabilities”.


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