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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 08:44 GMT
Most leisure venues are inaccessible
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website disability affairs reporter

A survey of pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and other leisure venues shows that four out of five do not provide proper access for disabled people.

Photo of disabled toilet containing boxes
Some accessible toilets are being used as storerooms
More than a thousand disability campaigners visited their local leisure venues across the UK, as part of a campaign organised by the disability charity, Scope.

The Free2Pee Big Night Out resulted in reports being sent in on more than 1,300 facilities.

As the campaign's name suggests, the emphasis was on the provision of accessible toilets.

Scope says that this is a basic need for anyone to enjoy an evening out, and for many disabled people the choice of pub or restaurant can often be determined by whether it caters properly for disabled customers.

"The message to the hospitality industry is clear - work harder to fulfil your legal obligations," said Scope campaigns manager, Ruth Scott.

Barriers to entry

The charity says the reward for businesses who do take disabled customers into account is to secure some of the 50bn spent by the UK's 10 million people with disabilities.

Its survey was carried out on 1 October - the day the final part of the Disability Discrimination Act came into force which requires businesses to make physical alterations to their premises to improve access

Photo of wheelchair user at top of staircase
A lack of level entrances can often bar the way to disabled customers

The results are published to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Disabled People.

The results show that restaurants were by far the worst - more than 90% had at least one access barrier.

In one, the dessert trolley was being kept in the accessible toilet.

Helpful and friendly

Cinemas provided the best access, with more than 50% having no access barriers.

Nearly two-thirds of the venues surveyed had no accessible toilet facilities, but in more than 60% of those that did, the toilets were unusable.

Staff attitudes - which often make an enormous difference to a customer's experience - were overwhelming positive.

More than 84% of staff were considered 'helpful and friendly' by those who returned surveys.

Helpful measures

Scope says many businesses could improve their accessibility by removing the clutter from corridors, placing furniture so that it does not become an obstacle, improving lighting and installing induction loops for people with impaired hearing.

Photo of steps to pub entrance
The law has changed, but many businesses remain inaccessible

It also recommends that businesses who are planning access improvements should inform potential disabled customers of this by placing notices outside.

It recommends that businesses share best practice on the most creative ways of removing access barriers.

Scope is also urging the government to address the confusion around the term 'reasonable adjustments' - which is what it requires service providers to make in order to comply with the law.

It suggests that the Disability Rights Commission should have the power to issue penalties and enforce compliance with the law.

Finally, Scope says the government should take action to improve access to the legal system because of the very low number of cases relating to access to goods and services that are coming to court.




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