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Legal History / 6 February 2009

In the first ruling of its kind, and securing an historic legal victory for Disabled people in the UK, a judge has ordered a major bank in Sheffield to install a lift so that people unable to access the bank due to a flight of steps at its entrance can have the same access as the rest of its customers.

Although it’s unlawful for businesses like banks and other public bodies to treat us Crips less favourably, a judge has never before ordered an injunction to force an organisation to make physical changes to its property so that disabled people can gain access. This is a significant move forward in our battle to gain access to the goods, facilities and services that should be our right.

David Allen, a 17 year old Sheffield wheelchair user took The Royal Bank of Scotland to court aided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Sheffield law Society. He was also awarded £6,500 - the highest ever compensation payout in this kind of case in recognition of the embarrassment caused when he was forced to discuss his account details out in the street.

Judge Dowse of Sheffield County Court also described discrimination against Disabled people as 'a social evil' when making the judgement, in which he made it plain that David has suffered from discrimination and that he has suffered from considerable embarrassment caused by the Bank.

David’s legal battle began when, contrary to signage outside his local branch of the bank and information posted on its website, he found that he could not gain access. The bank then suggested that he should use the nearest accessible RBS branch, even though it was a 10 mile journey and amounted to a two and a half hour round trip journey by bus. Dave decided to fight them instead!

Judge Dowse ruled that the Bank discriminated against Mr. Allen by not providing physical access to wheelchair users in its Sheffield city centre branch, and that the bank made no serious attempts to make the branch accessible to wheelchair users as required under the law.

On hearing the Court's decision, David 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.'

Apparently, Dave could have settled for a behind the scenes sum of money but he stood by his principles and his tenacity in taking it to court will mean a great number of us will now benefit from the precedent set by this case – nice one Dave.

NB. For those of you who’ve not been keeping up with the news, Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the RBS (who earned £4.2 million a year) was blamed for RBS’s financial woes after he pushed through a €71 billion consortium bid for ABN Amro last year.

Apartheid - You’ll probably remember a blog I posted on the 19th May 08 about this governments apparent reversal regarding ratification of the new United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, especially with regard to inclusive education. To keep the pressure on, Tara Flood from the Alliance for Inclusive Education has send out a letter for people to copy and send on to Gordon Brown (you remember him?!). You can contact Tara by email to ask for a copy of the letter at tara.flood@allfie.org.uk . Please take the trouble to do this as it not only affect you and me now, but will allow educational apartheid to continue for future generations of Disabled people, and this we cannot allow.

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