Sebby Brett .v. Merlin Entertainments Limited

8 year old Sebby has a condition similar to Cerebral Palsy, which means he cannot walk even short distances without help. As a family treat after a string of surgeries for Sebby, Mrs Brett booked a weekend at Legoland Windsor (LLW) for their family.On 28 September 2019 they went to board the LEGO NINJAGO ride.  Sebby was asked by a staff member to show he could walk three steps. They were told that they would not be allowed on the ride unless Sebby complied, as it was part of their wider Health & Safety procedures.

With some considerable discomfort, and with the pressure of having to do so in full view of the queue, Sebby managed the three steps, holding on to his Mum with one hand. He took his seat on the ride. Despite that, a different member of staff situated in Ride Operations instructed the Ride Manager that he also required him to do it again, so he could also view him walking and make a further safety assessment. This further drew attention to Sebby and caused delays on the ride which were obviously caused by the exercise. The family were shocked and distressed but did their best to hide that from Sebby and his sister Lottie.It was obvious that Sebby felt humiliated by the whole experience. He asked his parents, “Why would anyone ask someone disabled person to walk? It was so hard and upset me”.

When Mrs Brett complained about this, she was initially told that it was for agreed evacuation processes which are part of the wider Health & Safety procedures of the ride. They state: “Guests must be able to walk at least 10 metres without the assistance of a mobility aid or person to access the ride unit which may include navigating stairs. In the event of emergency, you will be required to walk down up to 80 stairs and walk sometimes over uneven surface without assistance.”

The Law

This is how we argue our case:

Pursuant to section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 Sebby is disabled; his disability is a protected characteristic.

Pursuant to section 29 of the Equality Act 2010, LLW is a service provider.

In providing theme park facilities, LLW is providing a variety of services within the meaning of section 29 of the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”). LLW is therefore obliged to comply with the provisions of section 29 including the obligation to make reasonable adjustments in accordance with section 20 of the Act.

By failing to provide equipment and resources necessary to assist Sebby with access to rides, and evacuation from them LLW discriminated against him in the following ways:

By applying a policy directed at disabled people using wheelchairs only, LLW subjected Sebby to direct discrimination contrary to section 13 of the Equality Act. Only people using wheelchairs appear to be challenged in respect of both access to rides, and evacuation from them.

Without an auxiliary aid in the form of appropriate equipment and care, disabled children with mobility impairments face a substantial disadvantage in accessing the service LLW provides; LLW failed to take reasonable steps to provide such auxiliary aids. Failure to do so placed Sebby at a detriment in that he was unable to access rides without being forced to walk at extreme discomfort, or at all, contrary to section 20(4) of the Equality Act 2010.

This constitutes disability discrimination contrary to section 29 of the Equality Act 2010 in that it is a failure to make a reasonable adjustment in breach of section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 and less favourable treatment arising from Sebby’s disability contrary to section 15 of the Equality Act 2010. The duty to make reasonable adjustments is an anticipatory duty and, in any event, LLW had actual knowledge of Sebby’s condition but disregarded it.

In addition, we believe that LLW indirectly discriminated against Sebby by applying a policy, criterion or practice (PCP) which places him at a substantial disadvantage by reason of his disability and failing to take steps to avoid that substantial disadvantage. The policy of requiring that guests must be able to walk at least 10 metres without the assistance of a mobility aid or person to access a ride unit which may include navigating stairs is the PCP in this case.

Further and in the alternative if that PCP is capable of justification that LLW has a policy of requiring that disabled guests must demonstrate that they can walk at least 10 metres independently to access each ride.

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