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Disabled youth wins legal battle

16 January 09 15:39 GMT

A disabled teenager who tackled the Royal Bank of Scotland after it failed to cater for his needs has won a major legal challenge.

David Allen, 17, from Sheffield, has muscular dystrophy. He launched the challenge after the bank failed to provide wheelchair access at a branch.

Sheffield County Court ruled the bank breached disability law by not having the access at the Church Street branch.

The bank said it had disability access at three other branches.

Now the bank must pay £6,500 in damages and has until the end of September to install a platform lift.

Precedent

The ruling is the first of its kind and has set a legal precedent which could have implications for other service providers, legal experts said.

The bank claimed it had complied with the Disability Rights Commission's Code of Practice and that it had arranged access to three other branches.

It also offered Mr Allen the use of telephone or internet banking services.

However, Judge Dowse criticised the bank adding: "The bank has made errors in this case causing David considerable embarrassment.

"It has not covered itself in glory."

At hearing the Court's decision, Mr Allen said: "I'm glad justice has been done.

"I only wanted them to comply with the law and provide disabled access so I could get into my bank like my friends."

Barrister Declan O'Dempsey, a discrimination specialist said "Businesses are required under the Goods and Services provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act to make "reasonable adjustments" to ensure that their customers can use their services."

"In addition, up until now no company has been forced by injunction to make a physical adjustment to ensure that disabled people have equal access to their services.

"This ruling changes that. Bigger companies now know that it is up to them to anticipate the needs of all their customers; and it will be up to them to prove why they have not ensured equal access to their services for all their clients."

John Wadham, group director, legal, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "When it comes to sensitive matters like our finances, we all value the discretion and security that bank branches offer.

"Why should a wheelchair user be denied this service when all that is needed is a little thought on behalf of a company?"

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