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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 23:35 GMT
Disabled 'barred' from many pubs
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website age & disability correspondent

Image of a pub with several access problems
The survey found several obstacles in the way of a good night out
Almost half of Britain's pubs are difficult or impossible to use by disabled people, a new report shows.

Disabled customers were unable to enter almost one in five of the pubs visited by auditors, UK disability charity Leonard Cheshire said.

Other venues could only provide access for disabled customers with the help of staff, it found.

Industry body the British Beer and Pub Association said its members were working to improve disability access.

'Unnecessary obstacles'

Inside the pubs surveyed, auditors said that more than a third did not provide accessible toilet facilities.

Is it too much to ask that disabled people are able to take part in the same social opportunities as everyone else?
Joan Searle, Leonard Cheshire auditor

Meanwhile, almost half of the pubs were unable to provide food or drinks menus in alternative formats for people with visual impairments.

"Our audits found that a number of unnecessary obstacles are preventing disabled people from popping to their local for a pint," said Leonard Cheshire's Guy Parckar.

"Drinking establishments need to think about the service they're providing to ensure that disabled people can expect the same standards as everyone else."

However, when it came to staff attitudes the auditors were far more positive.

Leonard Cheshire said some 80% of the establishments it visited had staff that had been helpful and welcoming.

But the charity's disabled auditors awarded lower marks for disability awareness and a willingness to change practices to suit disabled drinkers.

Modifications

The fact remains that, where problems do occur, these are frequently due to the heritage of pub buildings
Mark Hastings, British Beer and Pub Association

"With the 24 hour licensing laws, people can stay in the pub all day," said auditor Joan Searle.

"I was lucky to be able to get in the pub - is it too much to ask that disabled people are able to take part in the same social opportunities as everyone else?"

Since October 2004, bars and pubs - along with other businesses - have been legally obliged to make their services accessible.

"Whilst some were very good, too often we found the definition of accessibility only stretched to providing a ramp for entry," said Mr Parckar.

Leonard Cheshire is urging the pub trade to take a number of steps to improve accessibility, including:

  • Producing a clear code of practice on accessibility
  • Adopting a disability access policy
  • Conducting internal access audits involving disabled people
  • Providing disability equality training in the industry

Mark Hastings, of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the organisation was striving "to make our pubs accessible to all our customers including those who are disabled".

But he added: "The fact remains that, where problems do occur, these are frequently due to the heritage of pub buildings, many of which have listed status where modifications to facilitate disabled access may not always be feasible or practical."

Leonard Cheshire surveyed 100 UK public houses in October last year.




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